ANNAPOLIS – For 200 years, members of Maryland’s lower legislative house have been called “delegates.” But a House committee heard a bill Wednesday that would change that to assemblywoman or assemblyman.
To the committee’s delight, the chairman introduced the bills’ sponsor as “Assemblyman Valderrama,” who in turn thanked “Assemblyman Curran” for his introduction.
Del. David M. Valderrama, D-Prince George’s, said he sponsored the bill to respond to the question: “delegate to what?”
But other House members expressed reservations.
Committee Chairman Gerald J. Curran, D-Baltimore, said simply that he “didn’t think [the bill] is necessary.”
Del. John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, was more forceful. “There’s a lot of history involved in the name `delegate,'” Arnick said.
Valderrama was not unaware of the past’s importance. He offered the committee a lesson in “legislative nomenclature,” harkening back to the era when a colonial group known as the “council” served at the pleasure of the governor.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening “might wish for a return to those days,” Valderrama said, wryly.
Next came the House of Burgesses, also under British rule.
Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick, was intrigued, since she was the burgess, or mayor, of Middletown before her election to the General Assembly.
“When I told people I was `Burgess Snodgrass,’ they thought it was my first name,” she recalled.
But she would prefer to leave her title as is, noting that the title is rare among American state legislatures. Only two other states, Virginia and West Virginia, call their lawmakers “delegates.” “Assemblyman” is used by three, and 43 choose “representatives.”
Valderrama said he wanted “representative,” but was worried that would add to the confusion, since “we are not called the House of Representatives.”
Del. James E. Malone Jr., D-Baltimore County, pointed out that “stationery has House of Delegates on it and that would need changing.” But the bill’s fiscal analysis indicated no financial impact on the state. Curran termed the bill “DOA” — dead on arrival. He expects the committee to vote on it Friday. -30-