Put down that sign and step to the curb

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April 06, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Lipstick. Cell phones. BlackBerries. These guileless tools for better living take the rap for distracted drivers. But there are living, breathing, occasionally thinking people out there who actively plot to take drivers' eyes off the road. They are sign-waving politicians, and it looks like their days are numbered in Anne Arundel County, where a guy with an eye-catching name waved himself all the way into the county's top job.

Something known in Annapolis as "the panhandling bill" would prohibit anyone - beggars, office-seekers or charity groups - from soliciting money or spreading messages from roadsides or median strips.

The bill has already passed the state Senate and is expected to clear the House before the session concludes Monday.

County Executive John Leopold instigated the bill, which applies only to his county. He meant it to expand a similar law, passed a couple years ago, that only covers minors. Leopold's bill applied to adults, not politicians. (Insert your own joke here.)

Sens. James DeGrange and John Astle had it amended to cover pols, too.

"You're telling panhandlers you can't do this. You're telling charities you can't do it. Why should politicians be any different?" DeGrange said.

But Sen. Andy Harris called the bill unconstitutional and said the ACLU has backed him up in a legal opinion.

"It absolutely will not pass constitutional challenge," he said. "You can't restrict political speech."

Leopold said he's on board with the amendment, even though he credits sign waving with getting his name out in Maryland and, before that, Hawaii. "I was elected in both states after living there only one year."

Putting on the dog

Looks like Womble Carlyle, the law firm that hired Bob Ehrlich and his State House communications gang, has picked up another out-of-work Republican - Michael Steele's puppy.

Following his LG's lead, the ex-Gov appeared this week in an ad with a dog. Ehrlich, who is opening a Baltimore branch of the North Carolina-based law firm, stands in a suit and tie with Winston the Bulldog at his loafered feet.

"Top Dog. New Turf," it says.

The quarter-page ad appeared on page B5A of The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. (An ad like that - it ran only in Baltimore- and Washington-area editions - would set you and me back $3,769, though as a regular advertiser, the firm got a better deal, a WSJ ad rep said.)

Winston has been Womble Carlyle's mascot for more than a decade, ever since the dog appeared in a popular ad whose punch line was "The bad news is that your rich aunt has named her bulldog her sole beneficiary in Miami," according to the firm's Web site, which has a long profile of the dog.

The site says Winston has come to represent "persistence, loyalty, dependability and vigilance - all very desirable traits in a champion bulldog ... or lawyer."

At least it didn't go out on letterhead

An e-mail from the Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism alerted The Sun to an event last weekend at One-Eyed Mike's, the Fells Point bar where Duke the dog recently got the Health Department's heave-ho. It was a party to honor another neighborhood pooch.

"Surely the `lovely' person that made the initial complaint to the Health Department wouldn't begrudge an 18 year old blue tick beagle a birthday party!" the e-mail said.

We all know Martin O'Malley likes his Guinness, but was this really an official state event?

"Oh, no, no, no, no," said Jeannie Hegarty, whose e-mail bore her official state contact information. "I should have taken that off."

Connect the dots

Wonkette on a Baltimore gal's trip abroad: "Nancy Pelosi is in Syria supporting terror and worshiping John the Baptist's severed head. ... [S]he donned a head-scarf and hajib and visited a mosque. Because, really, the Republicans didn't have enough photos to use in their eventual attack ads aimed at the xenophobic end of their base. Once she returns home, Pelosi will down a bunch of acid, wrap herself in a rainbow flag, and roller-skate through the Castro while reading aloud from Mao's Little Red Book." ... You know it's been a slow session in Annapolis when a delegate takes to the floor and reads a menu. A pretty long menu at that: Barbecued Thai wings, calamari, garden salad with herbed vinaigrette, penne and veggies in a light Alfredo sauce, shrimp and ziti in a marinara, chocolate covered strawberries, rum-spiced chocolate cake and homemade shortbread. Del. Hattie Harrison was spreading the word about a party that freshman delegates and senators were throwing this week for senior legislators at The Rockfish. The bar is owned by Del. James King. ... On the other side of the State House hallway, Sen. Jamie Raskin read a poem roasting his fellow legislators, The Sun's Laura Smitherman reports. One snippet, on Nathaniel McFadden: "A partisan actor who places us before them, / I think he's earned the title of Senate pro Dem." ...

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