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At Md. legislature, the show goes on, kind of

Across Lawyer's Mall.jpgAfter canceling session for the first time in seven years on Monday, leaders of the Maryland General Assembly on Tuesday vowed to plow ahead with business, no matter how much new snow falls on Annapolis.

But their activities will be significantly pared back. House leaders decided to cancel all bill hearings on Wednesday, and the Senate was leaving it to the discretion of committee chairman to decide how much work to do.

Forty-four of the 47 Senate members made it to Tuesday morning's floor session, during which more than two dozen bills were moved along. With members back in town, and many already with hotel rooms, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said there was no reason not to proceed with regularly scheduled floor sessions this week.

"We're going to have a session tomorrow, no matter what the circumstances are," Miller said.

He also blasted the City of Annapolis for its snow removal operations, which he characterized as "disgraceful."

Miller said he was not as much concerned about senators as Annapolis residents. "They should have better treatment from their elected representatives, no question about it," he told the chamber.

Miller later told reporters that his comments were not aimed a newly elected Mayor Josh Cohen (D), but Miller said the poor performance should serve as "a wake-up call" for Cohen and the council between now and the next election.

House huddle.jpgWith several delegates still caught in a traffic jam on narrow Annapolis roads, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) called about a dozen members of the Democratic leadership and the House's top three Republicans to the dais to hatch a storm plan.

The group decided to proceed with committee hearings on dozens of bills scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and to keep lawmakers in town through Tuesday night's predicted storm. But they also decided to cancel all committee hearings on Wednesday to avoid putting members of the public in the tough spot of having to decide whether to risk the elements or miss a chance to testify on a bill they might care about.

"We don't want the general public to not be able to come down here and testify, if they want to," Busch said.

House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell (R-Calvert) echoed that sentiment. "We're trying to strike a balance" between open government and keeping the government open, he said. "We're in unprecedented territory, and we all have to put on our adult hats and work together."

Some lawmakers, however, said that with only about 30 minutes of official business expected during Wednesday's floor session, it wouldn't be all work at the State House. Some predicted card games and other fun.

Del. Justin Ross (D-Prince George's), for example, challenged to the House Republican caucus to a snowball fight when business is complete on Wednesday.

O'Donnell was coy when asked if his party - which is outnumbered nearly 3-to-1 in the State House - would join in.

"If we're going to, I would not disclose our plans," O'Donnell said. "There might be an ambush."

On the Senate floor, meanwhile, it was announced that a "gigantic celebration" honoring the 60th birthday of Sen. Richard E. Colburn (R-Dorchester) was still on for Tuesday night at a local hotel.

"You'll have something to do tonight," Sen. Larry E. Haines (R-Carroll) dryly told his colleague.

-- John Wagner and Aaron C. Davis

By John Wagner  |  February 9, 2010; 1:11 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , General Assembly , John Wagner  
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