Delegate gets funny, risks payback

January 24, 2013|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

In politics it's often said that what goes around comes around. Del. Kathy Szeliga better hope that isn't always true.

The Harford County lawmaker is known for her caustic and sometimes witty emails to constituents and reporters. But her most recent edition trods on some of her colleagues' toes in a way that could be seen as gratuitous. Her targets include fellow Republicans with more experience.

In her latest, Szeliga singles out five bills introduced this year for ridicule under the headline: "Does This REALLY need to be a Law?" She posted a link to a YouTube video called "Not Top 5."

Her targets are:

SB211 -- Tree Experts.
"Should this bill pass, licensed tree experts in Maryland
would no longer be able to supervise more than one company that provides tree expert services,"  Szeliga writes.

Maybe it sounds like a joke to Szeliga, but obviously Sen. Christopher Shank, a Washington County Republican and fellow conservative, thought it raised a serious issue. He sponsored it.

SB191 -- Increasing penalties for theft of a wheeled cart.

"This bill increases the fine for damaging, stealing, and
abandoning grocery carts from $25 to $100. Did you know that grocery carts
suffered from abandonment issues too? Is this REALLY worth making a law?" Szeliga asks.

This bill at least has Democratic sponsorship in both the Senate or the House, so Szeliga presumably isn't offending a likely ally on many issues. But the ridicule begs the question: Is $25 perhaps an outdated fine for a shopping cart that can cost a retailer much more than that?

HB13 -- State Sandwich -- Soft Shell Crab

This legislation would make the State Sandwich the soft
shell crab sandwich. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, we have this directly from the policy note:

"Soft-shell crab sandwiches are generally quite
simple. A traditional sandwich consists of a breaded and fried soft-shell crab
between two slices of white bread or toast. Lettuce and tomato are common
additions; there also maybe a squirt of lemon, Old Bay seasoning, or some
tartar sauce. The focus of the sandwich is the sweet and savory meat of the
crab and the crunch of the soft shell."

Can we at least discuss issues with real, substantive
debate? For example, should the State soup be cream of crab or Maryland crab

Symbol bills are always an easy target, and the sponsor of HB13 is a Democrat, Wicomico County's Del. Rudolph Cane. Perhaps Szeliga didn't notice that the Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Sen. Richard Colburn, a senior Republican from the Eastern Shore. Colburn sits on the powerful Budget & Taxation Committee, which makes decisions on such matters as Harford County bond bills.

SB220 -- Cable Service Providers-Missed Appointments

Szeliga: This legislation would provide penalties for television
service providers who miss their scheduled appointment time with their
subscriber. Really? Can't the private sector take care of itself? What would
any normal person do if they were stood up on any other date? DUMP 'EM! 

SB220 is sponsored by Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat who also sits on Budget & Taxation and is a man of the old school.

HB173 -- Golf Cart Zones in Highways

Szeliga: This bill would give Charles County the authority to
designate "Golf Cart Zones" on highways in that county. What's next,
Rascal zones? Look out, here comes Grandma! How about a lane designated
specifically for little Jimmy and his Big Wheel? Honestly, does this REALLY
need to be a law?

This is a Charles County Delegation bill -- empowering the county government to manage its own roads. In the General Assembly, usually members give great deference to local bills -- figuring their colleagues from those counties know what those jurisdictions want better than they do. It should be noted that Harford County has local bills too, for which its delegation expects deference from Charles County lawmakers, even if they all happen to be Democrats.

Maybe the lawmakers who were the butt of Szeliga's jabs will take it all in a spirit of fun. But it's also possible that on the last day of session, any of Szeliga's bill that are still pending could become the target of endless delaying motions designed to ensure their demise. The punch line of Szeliga's joke would then be Szeliga herself.




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