ANNAPOLIS – Delegate Kenneth D. Schisler, R-Talbot, was elected chairman of the Eastern Shore delegation Friday, completing the shift to Republican control of the delegation, which began last November.
Delegate Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-Dorchester, was elected vice chairwoman, ending the past six years of bipartisan control of the delegation’s leadership under Delegate Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico, who had a GOP vice chairman.
The balance of power shifted after the November elections, which left the Republicans with a nine to four advantage in the delegation, instead of the seven to six split that had favored the Democrats.
Several delegation members, including Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R- Somerset, and Delegate Mary Roe Walkup, R-Kent, praised Conway, who led the delegation since 1997, for fostering a bipartisan spirit allowing the delegation to unite on matters dear to the Eastern Shore.
“True to your profession as a teacher, you’ve taught all of us,” Walkup said. “I appreciate all the work that took.”
However, after the meeting, Conway said he was disappointed at the delegation’s decision not to follow his tradition of bipartisan leadership.
After his election, Schisler said Conway would be a “hard act to follow” and pledged to run the committee in the same spirit as the outgoing chairman.
“When we represent the Eastern Shore delegation, we’re not Republicans, we’re not Democrats, we’re Eastern Shoremen,” Schisler said.
Although the delegation has not yet set its legislative agenda, Schisler recently has spoken favorably about the “One Maryland” initiative to improve the economic and social situation in disadvantaged areas of the state, and relaxing regulations on watermen in the Chesapeake Bay.
Schisler immediately proposed the delegation work to relax restrictions on crab fishing in the bay, and said he hoped the delegation could have a regulatory proposal ready to show the new Department of Natural Resources secretary when one is appointed.
Under current regulations, crabbers were to reduce the percentage of the crab population they catch by 15 percent, however DNR is predicting this year’s catch will go 2.6 percent beyond that.
Surpassing the requirement gives the state room to relax the rules, said Delegate D. Page Elmore, R-Wicomico, possibly by rolling the minimum size for crabs back to the 2000 limit of 5 inches, from the current 5.25 inches.
Although most regulations were beneficial to the crab population, Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, said the size restrictions were causing problems for watermen in the lower Eastern Shore.
The department is studying the effect of the size rule, said Eric Schwaab, director of the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service. The size limit is problematic, Elmore said, because Virginia is still using the 5-inch limit, making enforcement difficult. Zoned regulation might be necessary, leaving the larger restriction in place in the north bay, while using the old regulation in the south. A single size limit baywide would be best, said Simns, but zoning could be acceptable as a “last resort” if it was the only way to get the smaller limit for the southern waters. – 30 – CNS-1-10-03