It took the better part of a decade to get slots approved at a handful of sites across the state. Las Vegas-style table games just arrived at two Maryland casinos.
Sometimes it just takes time. Or a persistence that might seem delusional one year and brilliant the next.
“People aren’t ready to just jump on a completely new area of law without taking some time to learn about it,” said Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery).
When she introduced a measure about surrogacy, which would clarify the rights of children conceived through sperm and egg donation and their parents, she knew it had little chance. But it had a hearing. People were at least talking about it. And that was enough.
“It’s a new thing,” Dumais said. “I expect it will take a year or two longer to pass.”
Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) knew that his bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks would not advance out of committee. But he proposed it to provoke debate.
“There hasn’t been awareness of this issue in Maryland in a long time,” Parrott said. “We brought in expert witnesses to talk about what science has learned about what’s going on in the womb.”
Even though the bill was stuck in a drawer by the committee chairman, Parrott is still proud.
“Everyone in the committee heard that discussion,” he said. “I think that’s something we’ll be able to build on.”
There are other reasons people forge ahead with apparently doomed bills.
“People will propose legislation just to make sure the issue is out there,” Dumais said. “You can tell your constituents: ‘At least I took it to the legislature. I got it some discussion.’ . . . I don’t want to say people will do it for headlines, but sometimes, they do. Our job is to weed those out.”
Perhaps no one takes that role more seriously than Del. Joseph F. Vallario (D-Prince George’s), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who sees himself as a human filter, sorting the frivolous from the serious.
“Every session, we pass a thousand laws, then nine months go by and all the sudden you got 2,000 new laws we gotta get passed.”
Many lawmakers bemoan the bills that they say are little more than a waste of time. Sometimes, lawmakers will get so fed up that they present legislation to limit the number of bills lawmakers can put in per year.
Those measures fail, too.
“I think the General Assembly is reconciled to the fact that people are going to put in hundreds of bills and all that we can do is vote them down if they’re stupid, which they usually are,” said Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery). “You can’t limit it. It’s a form of expression.”