ANNAPOLIS While other delegations just worry about legislation, the Harford County delegation has an extra headache: finding its way around. All of the members of the delegation are new to their positions at the State House this term.
“New people bring new ideas, a new outlook and new methods to the table,” said Sen. J. Robert Hooper, a Republican from Fallston. “I am already getting ideas that are coming from back home.”
Two new senators and five new delegates from the county’s Districts 34 and 35A were sworn in at noon Wednesday as Maryland’s 194th legislative session began.
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, an Edgewood Republican who served in the House of Delegates for four years, said the new blood comes with a wealth of government and public policy experience.
“I would say we’re new, but that’s a bit misleading,” said Delegate Mary-Dulany James, a Democrat from Bel Air. “We may be new to sitting here, but none of us are new to public service.”
James is following the footsteps of her father William S. James, who was president of the Senate for 11 years and state treasurer for 12 years.
Jacobs is the only Harford County legislator with State House experience. Two of the new delegates were members of the Harford County Council. Delegate Charles R. Boutin, a Republican, was most recently mayor of Aberdeen.
James said strong government backgrounds will help the freshman lawmakers to navigate the State House procedures and processes. Even so, Boutin said he expects to spend his first days of the session listening and learning.
“I expect to be rather quiet for a while,” he said. “Having a totally freshman delegation when the system works on a seniority basis puts us at a slight disadvantage. We have to go through that learning curve like everyone does.”
Jacobs disagreed, saying the legislators’ political knowledge will keep them in step with the rest of the General Assembly.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor, D- Allegany, said he has confidence in the new delegates. He toured the state with them for five days in December.
“I dubbed these freshmen the `whiz kids’,” Taylor said Wednesday to the crowd gathered at the House of Delegates swearing- in ceremony. “They’re very bright and have positive attitudes.”
Members of the Harford County delegation focused on education as the priority for this year’s 90-day legislative session, specifically school construction and education funding.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to focus on is education,” Hooper said. “Everybody everywhere is shooting for the same thing.”
Specifically, Hooper said he is working on a bill that would extend the life of school buses from 12 to 13 years with yearly inspections after 10 years, in an effort to save money.
While Democrats and Republicans have started to argue about taxes, the Harford County delegation bypassed the partisan politics. Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening is pushing a tax increase on cigarettes, and Taylor is working on a plan to increase the sales tax while Republicans rally the opposition to both. James, a Democrat, however, agreed with Republicans Hooper and Boutin: they oppose any tax increase.
“We don’t need any more taxes,” Hooper said. “My people didn’t send me down here for new taxes.”
The projected budget surplus of more than $200 million by June 30 should mean a decrease in taxes, Boutin said.
“If you can’t give a tax cut now, when can you?” he asked.
Harford County also includes a small portion of District 6, which has one senator and three delegates. One of those delegates – – Democrat Nancy Hubers — is also new.