When legislators come to Annapolis, they help boost the economy

City is welcoming capital

General Assembly Special Session

October 26, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

The narrow shop-lined sidewalks in downtown Annapolis may grow a bit more crowded. The usual lunch-rush line inside the Subway sandwich shop may snake outside the door. Parking, already in short supply, likely will be more scarce.

But to residents of the capital city, the influx of legislators, their staffs and lobbyists set to convene Monday for the start of the General Assembly's special session is not really special.

"We see them every year," said Ray Weaver, spokesman for Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer.

"It's their home away from home. We're accustomed to the legislature being here. We're not going to do anything other than to welcome them."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Friday's Maryland section about the impact of the special session on Annapolis incorrectly stated the number of legislators in the General Assembly. There are 188.
The Sun regrets the errors.

The 181-member General Assembly is expected to spend a week in the city, maybe more, to address the state's nearly $2 billion budget deficit.

Their presence will translate into dollar signs for Annapolis, with higher occupancy rates at hotels and busier lunch hours at restaurants, but it's not likely to create clogged roads or other major disruptions.

"Political considerations aside, I don't have an opinion on whether they have a special session," Weaver said.

"But the thing is, it's always good for Annapolis when a couple hundred extra people show up and eat dinner."

The city is frequently the stage for large events - from the annual fall boat shows to the impending Middle East peace talks - so many residents don't expect this session to register much of an impact.

Michael Parker, who lives in the downtown neighborhood of President's Hill and teaches English at the Naval Academy, said that when he moved to Annapolis in 1979, it was a sleepy town.

But now, "Annapolis is bustling almost year round.

"I think we like to see the legislature here," Parker said. "If I'm wearing a suit, the lobbyists think I'm some representative they haven't met ... so they say hi. If I'm dressed down, I don't get much attention."

Every January, delegates and senators come to town for the normal 90-day legislative session. Special sessions are rare. Since the Revolutionary War, according to David Warner, a librarian for the legislature, 57 special sessions have been held to decide issues that lawmakers weren't able to tackle during the regular sessions.

The first, in 1792, lasted from April 2 to April 6, Warner said. During a special session in 1836, only the House met. In 1971, only the Senate held a special session to confirm nominations to the newly established District Court.

Special sessions cannot be longer than 30 days, according to the state constitution.

Richard E. Israel, a member of the City Council, said Annapolitans take a certain pride in being the seat of the state government.

"We welcome the legislators here," Israel said. "We are pleased to be the capital city, and we want to be hospitable.

At the new Westin Annapolis, hotel staff has fielded about 25 calls from prospective patrons for next week, said Sharon McKennon, director of marketing and sales.

"A lot of times, they stay in session until 11 o'clock at night," McKennon said. "They made sure we had 24-hour room service. Those are the kinds of questions we've been asked."

With legislators in mind, the hotel last week ordered 35 microwave ovens that could be installed in the rooms. And it's running a free shuttle bus between the hotel and the State House at legislators' request.

At 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar and Gallery, owner Brian Cahalan said he expects a rush of breakfast patrons, dining while discussing work and using the store's wireless Internet.

"People are meeting with their staff because they need to talk about things before they have a meeting," Cahalan said. "It's a great way for the community to interact with the legislators. They kind of make it their home away from home or their office away from home."

One guy who Cahalan said will likely stop by: Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch.

"He's a big breakfast guy."


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