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With the start of the 433rd General Assembly session Wednesday, House Speaker Michael Busch congratulated Del. Joseph F. Vallario on his 21st year as chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, saying, “He has the energy of a 21-year-old, so that matches up well.”

After Busch was sworn in, with his wife and daughters next to him, he noted that since the first time he was sworn in, his daughters have grown into beautiful young ladies. “Thank God they look like their mother,” Busch said. The delegates in the chamber applauded, probably more loudly than appropriate.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski commented on her recent elevation to chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Quite frankly, at 4-foot-11, I’ve been waiting to be elevated all my life.”

Senate President Mike Miller drew a round of shocked laughter from the Senate chamber when he referred to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as “the diva” in introducing the Baltimore mayor from the podium. The comment reportedly prompted an incredulous expression from the mayor, and Miller quickly explained that he was referring to her talent, charm and youth.

Miller also introduced Howard County executive and rumored gubernatorial contender Ken Ulman as “everybody’s choice for some spot on a statewide ticket.”

And, the president introduced Attorney General Douglas Gansler as “a guy who wears Yale belts to show that he went to Yale,” adding that “if you saw how he acts at a hockey game, you wouldn’t believe it.”

— Holly Nunn and Daniel Leaderman

Kiss me, I’m German

One would think that twice electing a man named Martin O’Malley to be governor would give the world ample reason to believe that Maryland appreciates its Irish Americans. But a bill to declare March as Irish-American Heritage Month in Maryland died in a House committee last year.

So Sen. Edward R. Reilly is giving it another go, in hopes that Marylanders of Irish heritage finally will get the recognition they deserve. His pre-filed bill was introduced Wednesday, alongside 86 other Senate bills and 60 House bills.

March already is federally recognized as Irish-American Heritage Month.

Also on the list of quirky pre-filed bills is one declaring Oct. 3 as German-American Heritage Day.

Both bills urge organizations to observe the month or day properly, with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities, which should probably include Irish whiskey, German beer and lederhosen.

Throw in Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam’s proposed Maryland Centenarian’s Day — the second Thursday in May — and we’ve got ourselves a party.

— Holly Nunn

Don’t be shellfish

Speaking of matters of the greatest import in Annapolis, another bill introduced Wednesday will designate an official state sandwich. Yes, we’ve heard of Maryland’s state bird (Baltimore oriole), state cat (calico), state dog (Chesapeake Bay retriever), state sport (jousting) and state drink (milk), which pairs well with the state dessert (the eight- to 10-layer Smith Island cake). But the matter of the state sandwich remains unresolved.

Sen. Richard F. Colburn is nominating the soft-shell crab sandwich, a pick likely to set off a heated debate about the much-loved crab cake sandwich, which certainly should get some consideration.

This issue has the potential to be the 2013 session’s casino debate, possibly delaying the essential work of passing a budget. We’re prenaming this the Great Crustacean Debacle of 2013.

Whether you’re partial to the soft shell or the crab cake, we recommend taking a walk after lunch, since walking is, after all, the state exercise.

— Holly Nunn

Take that, Darth Vader

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, more of a science geek than a science fiction one, ended a speech in front of the General Assembly on Wednesday with, “May the Force be with us.”

Mikulski occasionally ends her speeches with the popular “Star Wars” movie reference, said spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight.

While the senator might have been a Jedi-like defender of federal scientific research programs when she chaired the Senate’s science subcommittee, Mikulski has told the story of how her own dreams of becoming a scientist were dashed in college because she found herself too clumsy in the lab.

BTW, Mikulski is dubbed the “Godmother of the Hubble” for the space telescope that has peered into galaxies far, far away, and the database of scientific information and images gathered by the Hubble and other space telescopes is officially known as the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, located at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

— C. Benjamin Ford

Magic Mike

Mike Miller was one of the last to take the podium at a Democratic Party luncheon Tuesday, following speakers that included Barbara Mikulski, Ben Cardin and Steny Hoyer.

There had been much praising of Martin O’Malley, Maryland state lawmakers and the state’s congressional delegation, and when Miller grabbed the microphone, he joked there wasn’t much left to say.

“I sort of feel like ... Elizabeth Taylor’s last husband, you know, on the wedding night,” Miller said, alluding to the oft-wed movie star and eliciting a round of laughter and groans. “I know what I’m supposed to say and do, but I’m not sure exactly how to make it interesting, you know what I mean?”

Apparently sensing the mixture of amusement and discomfort in the audience, the Senate prez joked that his speech was going to get worse, and that he had a stud bull story yet to tell. The story did not arise in the conclusion of Miller’s remarks, however.

— Daniel Leaderman

Cramer remembered

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Richard Ben Cramer of Chestertown was praised by Gov. Martin O’Malley as a “great American, great Marylander, and a dear friend.”

Cramer, who worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Baltimore Sun and also penned several books on national politics and baseball, died Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 62.

“We have lost one of the best political journalists of our times,” O’Malley said in a statement. “We have also lost a great patriot, and one of the kindest souls God ever created.”

Cramer’s 1984 profile of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer for Esquire magazine is considered legendary in the magazine industry.

“Don Schaefer has his head in his hands, one stubby index finger is drumming steadily, slowly on the skin where his hairline used to be, years ago, before he was mayor of Baltimore, before he was The Answer to Urban Ills, before he owned this city, and owned every one of the eager souls arrayed for his inspection around the long table,” Cramer wrote in the article. “Oh, they’d seen him upset before. They’d seen the whole melon grow deathly white as he started stringing curses together in new ways –– no particular order.

“They’d seen him slam telephones, stomp out of meetings, lock himself in his inner office, making candles or tending to his African violets, all the while muttering vile imprecations on the sluggards whom he employed and ruled.”

— C. Benjamin Ford