For days before the House voted on his campaign financing bill last week, Del. Luiz Simmons (R-Montgomery) could be found every morning among the couches and coffee tables in the House lounge, and every afternoon in the halls and corners ouside the chambers where committees meet.
He would pace impatiently back and forth, chopping at his thick brown hair with his hands or, more often, hovering over a fellow delegate, his face inches away, and chattering -- eagerly, incessantly chattering.
It was the kind of exhausting work that many legislators here disdain. But Simmons was in his political element, doing what he does best as a legislator: aggressively promoting and lobbying for the ethics and consumer-oriented legislation he has introduced in his two years here.
Last year, although he was both a freshman and a Republican in a state dominated by Democrats, Simmons managed to enact bills to make generic drugs more readily available, and to force state agencies to respond more effectively to citizens' complaints.
And as this year's session entered its final week, two more of Simmons' bills seemed headed for passage. One would authorize the state insurance commissioner to conduct a study of title insurance fees in the state, and propose reforms for the way citizens are charged for settlements of home purchases. Another would require gas stations to post their prices, thereby encouraging price competition among neighboring stations.
Simmons' campaign financing bill, which is one of the broadest and toughest ethics measures to come before the legislature in recent years, already has passed the House, with the help of Simmons' lobbying.
The bill would prohibit companies with state contracts from contributing more than $100 to state election campaigns, thereby wiping out hundreds of thousands of dollars in such contributions that Simmons says amount to "a legalized kind of bribery."
The measure's prospects are uncertain -- at best -- in the Senate, where it has been strongly opposed by lobbyists for utility companies that last year contributed more than $20,000 to state campaigns. But Simmons says that with the help of labor groups, he could still push the bill through before the General Assemlby adjourns Monday night.
Needless to say, Simmons will not fail for lack of aggressiveness. In his two years in Annapolis, he has nearly perfected a highly effective campaign routine for promoting his issues that leaves his colleagues impressed, envious and, in some cases, harshly critical.
Each of Simmons' carefully prepared bills is usually filed in accompaniment with the release of a comprehensive study by his staff designed to draw media attention to the issue.
In one case earlier this year, Simmons managed in this way to put enormous pressure on Montgomery County's delegates and senators before a vote on his bill curtailing property tax breaks for the county's exclusive country clubs. The measure failed, but Simmons' efforts earned him respect from colleagues. "If he were a Democrat, he'd wind up in the leadership," remarked one prominent delegate.
At the same time, Simmons' talent for attracting media coverage and his single-minded pursuit of his own issues have offended other legislators, who say Simmons' personal ambitions cause him to neglect other work in committee and within the delegation.
But Simmons insists he is doing exactly what a liberal Republican in a conservative Democratic body should do.
"I see my role as generating and identifying issues which the leadership of the legislature then has to deal with," he says. "If I do my homework, I can determine issues that the legislature has to decide -- and let them know how the public wants them decided."