House hopes to spread the word Delegates plan to hire aide to inform public of its activities

October 04, 1995|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

The Maryland House of Delegates is looking for its first public information officer to help citizens find out what it has done for them lately.

"The General Assembly doesn't get its message out effectively. The public needs to know how we operate," said Baltimore Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the Appropriations Committee chairman.

Mr. Rawlings said he was among the delegates who recommended creating the position, which will carry a taxpayer-funded salary of $35,000 to $50,000 a year.

"People just don't know how hard legislators work," Mr. Rawlings said.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said the new job was included in the state budget the legislature passed earlier this year.

"Considering the structure and size of the House, it's sort of amazing to me it has done without a public information person as long as it has," said Mr. Taylor, a Cumberland Democrat.

The staffer would put the House on par with the state Senate, which has had a press assistant since 1991.

The House aide's duties will include preparing weekly legislative summaries for delegates, writing speeches for the speaker, preparing news releases, working with reporters and organizing hearings.

Mr. Taylor said he hopes to fill the job before the legislature convenes in January. With that addition, his staff will rise to seven people with a $327,775 budget. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat, has a seven-person staff with a $289,539 budget.

When Mr. Taylor was nominated for speaker in 1993, he promised to improve communications with the 140 other delegates.

Some had complained that under his predecessor, R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., they felt cut off from decision-making.

But House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman said he does not VTC believe the public information position is necessary.

"I think [Speaker Taylor] has been able to get his word out all over the place. I've seen no place where he's been unable to get his message out in the press," the Howard County Republican said.

Mr. Taylor said the aide was not being hired to improve his image and, despite speculation to the contrary, insisted he is not contemplating a run for governor.

The hiring also is not a response to any bad press, he said.

"If we have a problem because of an incident and we need damage control, it would be good to have a public information person around to help us think through what we're going to do about it," Mr. Rawlings said.

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