Monday, April 8, 2013


(Annapolis) "What will be our hashtag? How about..." and that's how it all began with reporters, veteran political observers and newcomers weighing in on the come and goings of all things politics in Annapolis.

Neutered was one outspoken politician, Delegate Don Dwyer of Glen Burnie, he faced DUI charges. Lurking around the edges was State Comptroller Peter Franchot who made no secret of his desire to run for governor (and then he took his name out of the race). We also learned that a fractured MDGOP was being split by those in congress and those in the legislature. Who could have predicted the Anne Arundel County Executive, John Leopold, with his red sweater vest had a trail of sex in a car at the Annapolis Mall and employees having to change catheter bags. Hanging over all of this was the Governors desire to seek a presidential run in 2016. Got all that.

My trusted colleagues in "the pit" we're up to the challenge. I'll release some press corp awards and political awards later in this blog.

Check the Score Card

With gambling off the table, (except for the fact table games are being introduced at the states casinos) this session was all about guns. Death Penalty and the passage of gas tax will have fare reaching implications. It was the rallies and the turnouts that most visible on gun issues. Proponents of tighter gun control pointed to a series of national tragedies, Newtown, Connecticut Shooting,  Aurora, Colorado  Movie Shooting, and the Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s shooting. Urban legislators pointed to the countless shootings of youth. Rural legislators pointed to the second amendment right to bear arms. In the end one of the nation’s most restrictive gun ownership rules were imposed on Marylanders.

The Death Penalty in the state of Maryland has not been carried out since Republican Governor Robert Erhlich was in office. Efforts to repeal the death penalty have been consistent. Kirk Bloodsworth has been exhibit A for repeal. The Eastern Shore resident was wrongfully accused of First Degree murder. He was exonerated after DNA evidence proved he didn't commit the crime.  The governor was joined by the NAACP in calling for its repeal. To help facilitate the process a judicial committee member was replaced paving the way for it getting to the floor.

Who Controls the Schools?

Shhhh! If every school district pulls a “Baltimore,” it will likely be bondholders. The City of Baltimore needed money to replace an aging infrastructure that has outlived its effective date. The city is also dealing with a reduced student population.

The Superintendent, Dr. Andres’ Alonso made a pitch to city leaders that they get the state to agree to fund (read guarantee) the school system the same amount of money for next 10 years. The school system would go to the bond market and leverage the guarantee to ask for a billion dollars to fund construction. Guess what the state agreed to do it.

Okay, think about this, I'm a small jurisdiction that needs additional dollars, why don't I pull a "Baltimore." See the complication, a number of these types of deals and bondholders are holding the purse strings.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has a thankless job in the state. He’s had to follow a predecessor who is in federal prison on corruption and bribery charges.

His school system is invariably ranked last or next to last. So what does he ask for? "Let me take over the system." The legislation to do so, comes in at the last minute, but the legislature giveth and taketh. They gave him the power to select a new Superintendent, but they limited his power to shape curriculum and impose wide ranging authority over school board.

The Business of the Legislature

I for one am glad we aren't dealing with a lot of these issues at the last minute like last year. Someone  obliviously decided to look at a clock. For the first time in many years there is no talk of a "Special Session."

Lastly, it has not been a good year for reporters and news organizations in the legislature. Doing more with less has been a mantra in the news business for a number of years. It hurts when I see colleagues go an papers close and reduce (The Examiner -closes Annapolis office, Maryland Gazette- will lose politics in its name and cuts 2 person staff in half, and David Hill, Washington Times leaves).

The Envelope Please

First the disclaimer, these awards are mine alone and no one was consulted about the names of awards or its recipients. So here we go.

The Bryan Sears Award for Why should I give a f...or sh...

Holly Nun, Maryland Gazette - some people would have thrown in the towel after being told you're it. Instead she was determined and made people cringe when she would say, "Can I ask you a question?"

Things Not Fit to Print, But Who Cares

Bryan Sears, - Bryan has been bring it for years. He's on every PIO's "oh shit list."

Most Tweeted about things not related to politics

Robert Lang, WBAL - Lang will tell you what he's doing all day long from along the Ravens Parade Route, the O's score, and reporters favorite tweet when Mrs. Lang has baked cookies for the press corp.

Best Newcomer(s)

Kaustuv Basu – Hagerstown Herald Mail – He jumped into the process and found a number of great news stories from the western portion of the state.
Bethany Rodgers - Frederick News Post – like her many predecessors she kept grinding and was a quick learner.

How Long Do I Have to Work Here
John Wagner and  Aaron Davis, Washington Post – all their colleagues who’ve worked this beat have gone on to cover the Congress, White House and major Presidential Candidates (why are they still suffering).

The Most Sarcastic Wit in the Pit
Steve Lash- Daily Record – need some levity, he can bring it.

Political Awards

Most Likely to take advantage of Maryland’s Marijuana Laws
Senate President Mike Miller – How do I know because he said so.
Odd Person Out in Democratic Senate Caucus
Sen. James Brochin – he’s always on a fine line because of the conservative nature of his constituency.
Odd Person Out in Republican Senate Caucus
(no award – everyone was in lock step)

Give Me What I Want

Gov. Martin O’Malley

And yes our twitter session hashtag is #mdga13