State lawmakers at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative wrap-up Wednesday morning said they could be called back to work in Annapolis, but discord remains.
Officially, the state legislature adjourned April 9, but leaders failed to reach an agreement on measures to reduce the state's deficit. As a result, the governor’s so-called “" will take effect July 1, reducing Howard County's state aid by $9 million.
At the Chamber of Commerce's April 18 event, here’s what lawmakers in attendance—Senator Allan Kittleman and Delegates Steven DeBoy, James Malone, Gail Bates and Frank Turner—had to say about the potential for the Maryland General Assembly to reconvene outside its typical 90-day session:
Kittleman: We’re going to have a special session…probably in early May.
DeBoy: Ditto what Senator Kittleman said. I think we’ll probably go back the second, third week of May.
Bates: It costs the state about $21,000 a day for a special session, so in a time when we’re worried about our spending, does it make sense to do that?...I would ask that you encourage us not to come back.
Malone: I won't believe we’re in a special session until it actually happens...There's a lot of people that are very upset with each other, and the two people are the Mikes [Speaker of the House of Delegates Mike Busch and Senate President Mike Miller]. And if those two don’t come to an agreement early on, [the governor] is not going to call all those people there [to Annapolis].
Malone said that the House of Delegates actually did extend its deliberation period in an effort to avoid the need for a special session.
Malone: By the Constitution, we’re allowed to extend session for five hours. We did that. Mike Busch went over to the president of the Senate and said, ‘Would you please do the same so we can leave here and get it done?’ I’m embarrassed that we didn’t complete what we should have completed.
What happens if the legislature holds a special session?
Bates: Once we are in session, it operates just like a regular session, but with a compressed timeframe. You have to worry about everything. I would say watch carefully.
Malone: When you have a special session, every single delegate and senator can put forward a piece of legislation and it has to go from the beginning...first reading, second reading, hearing...
Turner: There are $512 million in cuts today [with the doomsday budget]. Community colleges are going to take a 10 percent cut...stem cell research money, biotech money will be cut. State employees will have no COLAs (cost of living adjustments)...500 jobs will have to be cut at the state level…for us not to finish our work would be a tragedy.
By law, the governor can call the Maryland General Assembly into special session for 30 days when there is a petition from a majority in both the House of Delegates and Senate.