When Winfield M. Kelly Jr. was Prince George's County Executive a good portion of his winter was spent with the county's delegation here. But now Lawrence J. Hogan is executive and instead of appearing here personally, Hogan has sent his legislative liaison to the delegates with prepared statements.
"She's like a human postage stamp," Del. Gerard F. Devlin said of liaison Ella Ennis. "She gives us his statement on one bill or another and that's it."
The relationship between the 33 legislators and the local government has always been crucial in the 90-day General Assembly session. The members of the delegation are responsible for legislation that can affect local taxes, local union contracts -- and perhaps most importantly -- the amount of money the state sends to the county.
Much to the concern of the delegation, Ennis has yet to appear bearing a statement that will tell the all-Democratic delegation what Republican Hogan wants from the state coffers this year.
An in this, the year of TRIM, the county's tax-cutting property tax freezes, state funds may be even more important than in the past.
"Here it is March and we haven't heard or seen a word from Larry on the budget," said Del. Lorraine Sheehan, vice chairman of the county's delegation. "By the time we find out what he needs, it may be too late. Things move awfully fast around here the last three weeks."
Hogan's silence on the budget is part of what legislators say is a pattern of a lack of communication between the county government and Annapolis this session.
"Winnie was always up here for a key vote to round up votes," Devlin recalled this week. "He briefed us (the county delegation) on the budget the first week, kept us informed throughout the session and was never far away. He made us feel important."
The budget situation has now prompted Del. Frank Santangello to write Hogan, asking that he provide the delegation with information on his budget needs. "What Frank was saying," an aide said, "was it's time to lay some information on us. It's getting late."
Hogan, who met with the delegation over breakfast at the start of the session, says he wishes he had more time to spend in Annapolis. But he also points out that Kelly had a major advantage in dealing with the delegation in the past.
"Winnie's a Democrat; all the people in Annapolis are Democrats," Hogan said."I'm a Republican. They aren't going to react to me the same way they did to Kelly."
As for the budget, "I'm not Winnie Kelly. I don't operate the way he does," Hogan said. "I think the County Council should see the budget first. And I haven't completed it yet."
The delegates say they understand that Hogan, as a Republican, isn't going to be as comfortable with them as Kelly was. But some of them said they are mystified by the absence of the all-Democratic County Council.
"I guess they don't know what to make of us," said Tim Maloney, a freshman delegate. "I think it's just part of the new political climate in the county. No one is as comfortable as they used to be."
"The delegates up here aren't communciating very well with the senators. The council hasn't been around at all. And the exec (Hogan) is off on an island somewhere. The gears of the machine aren't meshing like they used to," Maloney said.
Members of the council are at odds over the role they should play. Council member Parris N. Glendening spent a day in Annapolis last week and returned to tell his colleagues they had to commute east to Annapolis more often.
"While I was there people (from the delegation) kept coming up to me and saying, 'where have you people been, why don't we see you here," Glendening said."If we want to get things done, we have to make more contact up there."
Glendening made his comments after the council had been told by its legislative liaison, Royal Hart, that a bill that would reduce the retirement age of corrections officers had been approved by the delegation in spite of council opposition.
"That's ridiculous," council Vice Chairman David G. Hartlove Jr. said. "I remember the days when they told us to stay away from Annapolis. Now, these new guys just want to be lobbied."
"Well," said council member Sue V. Mills, "if they want to be stroked, let's stroke them."
How much the delegation wants to be stroked is another matter of debatc. "Look, I think we like to be lobbied," said Devlin. "We like to feel like we're doing something important."
State Sen. Jack Garrity who was chairman of the County Council under a Republican executive, William Gullett, is against lobbying by local government.
"I think it's childish for a legislator to want to be lobbied," he said. "But having Kelly or his staff people around made things easier because you could always find out where they stood quickly."
Neither Hogan nor the delegates rule out the possibility that their relationship will warm in the future. "I hope next year I'll have more time to spend in Annapolis," Hogan said. "When I went up for breakfast in January, I promised I'd spend time up there. But it hasn't been possible."