This is the last week, the last opportunity for politicians and lobbyist to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the car of a state delegate or senator and win approval for a law that means something.
The foyers behind each chamber have been riddled with such people recently, even on Saturday: county executives dressed in leisure suits, school board members carrying around statistics spelling financial disaster and the occasional citizens who happen in to view the whole machinery of Maryland democracy.
Most visible, though, are those county executives who are more than most need the legislature for survival. They need it for money.
In the most 10 days of so the leaders of Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore Counties have been present in Annapolis. With their lobbying efforts, with their handshakes and their I.O.U.'s, they have been here looking for a way to balance their budgets or come up with that program promised in the last campaign.
Why is it then, that it seems that their worst enemies are their own delegations?
Politics, of course. The politics of spreading responsibility, blame and towards evenly among the state legislators and the county officials who are all beholden to that citizen back in Laurel or Laytonsville.
Throughout this session here has been a remarkable dance, especially among the Prince Georgeians, to figure who will do what for whom and who will pick up the credit. It began in January with an unprecedented campaign known here as the "Red Flag Routine." From Upper Marlboro, County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. let it be known the some cherished programs would be cut from the budget if new taxes were not authorized during this sessions.
The spotlight then shifted to Annapolis where the news received mixed reviews. Kelly and his entourage came down to explain to the delegates what he wanted: a tier tax which would allow him to tax residential, commercial and apartment properties at different rates and/or an omnibus tax, which would allow him to tax telephone usage.
This was the "Red Flag," or false alarm moment. Some delegates said as much but Kelly was adamant. He needed those new taxing powers or his budget would be too minuscule to accomodate any program. He couldn't very well raise the property tax - that was the only clear message coming from the citizens - so he would do away with the new capital budget projects.
Now, with hindsight, it is easy to see how crucial this was. Businessmen led by Peter F. O'Malley, were disappointed. O'Malley, is the attorney for the Capital Center and convention center developer William J. Levitt Jr., as well as the campaign manager for gubernatorial hopeful, Senate President Steny H. Hoyer. In that budget was a small $100,000 to pay for a feasibility study for a convention center in Prince George's. O'Malley burned the candle at both ends putting together a package with his client Levitt that would require $20 million in bonds from the state. But that was behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, the delegates were receiving anxious signals from their constituents about some of those projects. But to support a tier tax for Prince George's. The compormise became the ommnibus tax - which was intended to produce some $5 million for next year's budget - and it was reached with a number of visits here by Kelly.
He came alone, usually. He stalked the lounges to talk to senators and delegates and he listened and cultivated representatives who were short on sympathy from the Red Flag episode. It seemed to work.
Then, before they had time to catch a breath, thebusinessmen stepped up with their proposal and the delegation was once again spinning around to the requests of the folks back in the county. But this time it was a major request, late in the session, which required a lot of work.
O'Malley came down, taking the place of Kelly who had suspended his frequent visits, and it was now the business leaders who were asking for the help, for the center that they said was so crucial to the county's survival.
It failed. There were too many unanswered questions, it was too much money, and the delegation cost big on the floor when the members put their weight behind this losing proposition.
Del. Leo F. Green, possibly the only Prince George's delegate who consistently voted against the center, could survey the delegation's demise over the issue without the bitterness of others. He said he hoped that this wouldn't be repeated again.
But is that conceivable? The delegates and senators do face the same electorate as the county executive. Their successess and failures do hinge on the others' actions. If Kelly had had to raise the property tax this year, could reasonably point a finger at the delegation and say that their failure to support the tier tax cost the countians an additional 15 cents property tax?
And since the county bussinessmen are also the county source for political campaign money, can the delegates and the county executive ignore their pleas and face an election without their support?
Where the responsibiltiy lies will be thrashed out in the 1978 campaign when all face the electorate. Who takes the credit or blame for the actions of the legislature and the fall-out in the county depends on who stands to win or lose the most. It is good sense, then, for Kelly to be up here, watching which way the wind blows.