Seeing him in old familiar places

The Political Game

Decision: An Anne Arundel Democrat has scheduled a news conference today to announce if he is leaving the State House for a job that would double his salary.

June 20, 2000|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

HE WON'T say for sure until he appears at a news conference today, but Del. Michael E. Busch apparently has decided not to abandon his position of power and promise in the General Assembly for a high-paying new job.

Busch, an influential committee chairman who is often mentioned as the likely successor to House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., has been mulling whether to become chief executive of the Injured Workers Insurance Fund (IWIF)- a career move that would force him out of politics.

The fund is a quasi-public state agency that sells workers' compensation insurance. Busch met with the fund's board two weeks ago to discuss whether he would be interested in taking over the agency's helm, a job that would pay him twice what he earns.

The 53-year-old Democrat, who has represented the Annapolis area for 14 years, agonized over the prospect. He said he felt he owed it to his wife and two children to consider the new job.

Busch makes about $45,000 a year running youth recreation programs for Anne Arundel County, and $30,000 as a delegate. The insurance fund's prior executive, Paul L. Rose, was making $147,000 a year when he left in February.

After six years as chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, Busch has mastered the intricacies of the insurance industry. He also helped craft legislation enacted this year that reorganized IWIF, subjecting it to regulation by the state insurance commissioner.

Word of Busch's possible departure from the legislature prompted a flurry of concern among state and county officials, who want to retain his power and political skills in the State House.

Dennis Callahan, the county's director of parks and recreation, said yesterday that he has discussed with Busch the possibility of creating a post for him as an assistant to the director, with duties and pay to be worked out.

Busch went on vacation with his family to Bethany Beach, Del., last week, leaving word that he would announce his decision at his legislative office this morning.

Taylor, who had publicly said he did not want to lose Busch, predicted last week that the delegate's declaration today would be "very good news for me." Taylor declined to elaborate, saying that he had promised not to divulge Busch's intentions.

"For my family and my well-being, I had to make a decision about whether I was going to pursue the job or not," Busch said late yesterday, a few hours after returning from the beach.

When told that Taylor and others had predicted he would stay put, Busch did not dispute them. "They're pretty bright people," he said. "You could be seeing me here."

National GOP group thinks highly of Leopold

Del. John R. Leopold is not one of the best-known or most influential lawmakers in Annapolis, but apparently the folks at the National Republican Legislators Association (NRLA) think he's doing a good job.

Next month in Chicago, the group will honor the Anne Arundel Republican with one of eight Legislator of the Year awards for 2000.

Leopold, who holds the distinction of being the only Maryland lawmaker to have previously served in the Hawaii State Senate, is in his fourth term in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Van Esser, NRLA executive director, said Leopold was selected for his role for successful legislation in areas such as prepaid higher education and unauthorized use of parking spaces reserved for the disabled. He said that was an accomplishment in a state where Republicans make up a small minority of the legislature.

Leopold said one of the reasons he was chosen was his ability to build bipartisan coalitions "to take good ideas and turn them into law."

House Minority Whip Robert L. Flanagan said he was pleased that Leopold won.

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