This year, everybody came to Annapolis prepared. Gov. Harry Hughes, the legislative leadership and almost all of the 188 individual lawmakers knew what they wanted and how they wanted to go about getting it before the opening gavel began the three-month round of legislating.
Between the advance preparation, a hefty $320 million in unexpected revenues and the prevailing willingness to trade votes on issues, nearly everyone -- except perhaps taxpayers clamoring for direct tax relief -- got what they wanted.
Perhaps as a result of this, the 1980 General Assembly session was the most orderly and efficient in recent memory, with only a last-minute Senate filibuster marring its calm and deliberate finish last week.
In his traditional end-of-session remarks, House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin patted everyone on the back, saying, "The 1980 session will be remembered not only for its ability to properly manage its affairs, but also for its solid record of accomplishment."
The conciliatory tone of the session, established in Hughes' opening state of the state message, smoothed the way for enactment of major initiatives designed to try to equalize education expenditures around the state, bolster the depleted transportation trust fund and help mass transit systems in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs, and remedy the persistent problem of overcrowding in Maryland's prisons. Education
The governor, aided by one of the largest caches of unexpected revenues in state history, set the scene for compromise and tranquility in the session's second week.
Hughes announced he would add an extra $17 million to a program to aid local schools and to deal with one of the state's most pressing problems -- equalizing educational expenditures among its wealthist and poorest counties.
Faced with a lawsuit against the state filed by Baltimore and three of the state's poorest rural counties, Hughes took major steps to improve the equalization effort with a $67 million funding package.
In an effort to address what Hughes called "longstanding disparities" in the amount local jurisdictions can spend on education, the governor proposed raising state aid from $780 to $940 per pupil.
This basic proposal, along with other changes in educational funding, would yield an extra $10 million next year for Prince George's County. Montgomery County would gain about $660,000 under the plan.
The governor also proposed channeling $8 million to some of the state's poorer counties and those that have made the greatest financial efforts in the educational area.
In late March, as the education package seemed to be moving smoothly toward passage, a group of Montgomery Senators vowed to hold out for a change in one complex section of the proposal because they argued it discriminated against their county -- the wealthiest in the state.
This section of the bill, favored by such powerful Baltimore legislators as House Speaker Cardin, required local governments to pick up a small percentage of teachers' social security pension costs. It would have cost Montgomery County between $400,000 and $500,000 in one year.
The Montgomery senators ultimately reached a compromise with the governor, which included elimination of this proposal. Transportation
Washington suburban legislators arrived in Annapolis for the 1980 session with the paramount goal of winning state aid for the Washington Metro system.
By the time the 90-day session had ended, the General Assembly had enacted a pair of transportation aid measures providing $23.2 million to the Metro system next year and guaranteeing state aid for the subway for the next decade.
As Hughes molded his transportation proposals in the session's early weeks, suburban legislators waited anxiously, fearful that the governor would tie Metro funding to his long-favored idea of financing transportation by raising the state's gasoline tax.
Aware of legislative opposition to that plan, Hughes instead presented a $90 million transportation funding package built on the transfer of general revenue funds to the state's starving transportation trust fund.
The plan, however, did include one surprise element -- a proposal to increase auto registration fees -- that met with heavy legislative opposition.
By late February, new revenue estimates had pushed the size of the state's already hefty surplus well above $300 million, high enough for Hughes to abandon the registration increase and avoid a legislative confrontation. Prisons
Even before the session started, the question of prison policy -- what to build, where to build and how many prisoners to accommodate -- seemed the most problem-plagued issue for the Hughes administration.
For more than a year, the governor and Corrections Secretary Gordon Kamka had emphasized the need to move away from traditional warehousing concepts of correction and toward a program stressing rehabilitation, bringing offenders back as productive members of society.
The main vehicle for this philosophy was the Community Adult Rehabilitation Center CARC). In the administration's proposed construction budget, money was set aside for planning, building or finishing 10 of these minimum-security retraining and work release centers.
Conservative delegates objected to the CARCs, contending the state's prisoner classification system was inadequate and hardened criminals might be placed in the midst of unsuspecting neighborhoods.
In March, Hughes backed away from his no-new-prisons stance and proposed a new 500-bed medium-maximum security prison to be built at an as-yet-undetermined site near the Maryland Penitentiary in central Baltimore.
The result, by the end of the session, was passage of a prison construction program designed to end three years of bitter prison-related legislative squabbles and to meet the requirements of a federal court mandate to end double-celling of inmates at the penitentiary and the House of Correction.
It included $36.5 million to begin construction of the new Jessup prison at a hilly site adjacent to the House of Correction -- a half-mile from the site originally selected -- as well as $1.8 million for land acquisition and site planning for the new 500-bed Baltimore prison and $8 million for eight new CARCs around the state, including one in Prince George's County. Spending Limits
While a variety of spending proposals -- from the $90 million transportation package to $2.7 million in police aid for Baltimore City -- were eating away at the unexpected revenues, support was building for a package of six bills to curb government growth.
They included measures to return 97 percent or more of any surplus over $30 million to taxpayers in the form of income tax credits, and to tie the annual growth in the state budget to the growth in the gross personal income of Maryland taxpayers.
Both Cardin and Hughes frowned on the proposals, and Hughes decided to go to work himself to ensure their defeat. With the governor and his lobbyists jawboning two-thirds of the State Senate, and Cardin and his lieutenants marching from one House delegation to another carrying dire warnings of potential losses in local aid, the proposals were eventually defeated in both houses. D.C. Voting Rights
After weeks of frantic vote-trading, supporters of the D.C. voting rights amendment managed to win its enactment in Maryland in March by margins of three votes in the Senate and one vote in the House.
The ratification drive began in January with two controversial visits to Annapolis by D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy. In the end, however, the amendment was carried largely by the legislature's black caucus, which overcame House opposition that had led to voting rights' defeat three times in 1979. Business
After making a pro-business platform the centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign in 1978, Hughes pursued a variety of economic development proposals with considerable zeal this year.
Foremost among these was the proposal to provide a $22 million loan for renovations to Baltimore's Memorial Stadium -- renovations designed to meet the requests of Baltimore Colts' owner Robert Irsay and dissuade him from taking his football team elsewhere.
But the measure appeared in considerable trouble midway through the session, in part because Edward Bennett Williams, owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, had little good to say about the planned renovations and refused to make a commitment to keep his team in the city.
Trying to juggle the frequently conflicting desires of these two businessmen, the Hughes administration agreed to a series of compromises to get the loan plan through. Under the amended legislation, the bonds to finance the project may not be sold until July 1, 1981, and will not be sold at all unless Irsay and the Colts sign a 15-year lease at the stadium.
The other major piece of legislation sought and won by the state's business interests was a bill raising from 72,000 to 80,000 pounds the allowable load limit that trucks may carry while traveling Maryland highways. Credit
With a strong push from the banking and credit industry lobbies, the General Assembly enacted a sweeping series of measures that will raise the cost of consumer loans -- and virtually everything a consumer buys on credit.
Passage of the key banking bill in the package -- which will raise the interest rate on consumer loans from 12 to 18 percent -- was surrounded by controversy as the bill was killed, revived and then enacted by the House of Delegates.
One week after the session ended, Banking Commissioner W. H. Holden Gibbs resigned after coming under fire for lobbying for the bill favored by the industry he is supposed to regulate impartially.
The package of bills -- the most important legislation this session to affect consumers -- will, for instance:
Add a maximum of $12 a year to the credit card finance charges consumers pay to retailers and banks.
Increase the cost of loans under $2,000 borrowed from finance companies.
Boost the interest rate on new and used car loans taken out from a car dealer. The new rates, for instance, will add nearly $700 to the interest paid over four years on a $5,000 new car loan. Under previous law, the interest was about $1,800.
Increase the interest rates charged by banks on consumer loans of $3,500 or more. This will add about $630 to the interest paid over three years on a $6,000 loan. Health and Welfare
The chief item in the health and welfare field this year was Hughes' proposed 11 percent increase in payments to welfare clients. This measure, approved by the legislature, raises monthly payments for a family of four to $326, considerably less than the proposed minimum of $600 set by a gubernatorial commission. Alcohol, Drugs
Legislators arrived in Annapolis this year determined to raise the state's minimum drinking age for beer and wine from 18 to 19, in an effort to halt the "trickle down" practice of high school seniors buying alcohol and passing it along to their younger peers.
The legislation swept the Senate but stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, which opted instead to allow District Court judges to suspend the driving privileges of juveniles found guilty of violating liquor restrictions.
This measure was enacted in the final minutes of the session. A last-minute compromise, however, left it up to the state's judges to decide whether a one-to-three month suspension of driving privileges is warranted in individual cases.
Two measures to curb drug use were also enacted. One is a broad measure banning items ranging from bongs to common spoons -- if a judge determines the article is intended to be used to consume illegal drugs.
The other measure bans specific items for the consumption of marijuana, hashish and cocaine. Hughes has said he will await an attorney general's opinion on the constitutionality of the bills before deciding whether to sign either one. Abortion
After debates that were relatively mild by the measure of previous years, the legislature slightly toughened restrictions on state funding for abortions for poor women.
The conference committee language finally adopted tightened the permissibility of abortions performed for reasons of "mental health," which is used to justify 82 percent of the state-funded abortions in Maryland.
A doctor must now certify in writing that a pregnancy has an adverse effect on a woman's mental health. He must also assert that the pregnancy poses "a substantial risk" to the woman's mental health in the future.
Although the language is more restrictive, it is unclear whether the changes will really affect the number of abortions performed in the state, according to legislative leaders. Anti-abortion legislators had hoped to win approval or restrictions outlawing all abortions for reasons of mental health. Environment
In their major push of the session, environmentalists mounted a campaign for passage of a bill requiring deposits on beverage containers. But they were, as one legislator put it, "stomped to death" by one of the heaviest industry lobbying campaigns of the session.
The governor had more luck with his major environmental initiative, a bill to set up a statewide program for disposing of hazardous wastes. Previous efforts to deal with this problem have been hampered by local opposition to waste disposal sites, no matter where they are proposed. Ethics
Only two political reform measures received widespread attention this year, and both were soundly defeated by legislators who said there was not enough time and too little enthusiasm to consider ethics this year.
One bill, introduced with 47 sponsors in the House, attempted to salvage a public campaign financing program that passed the legislature in 1974 but had never taken effect, even though citizens had contributed $536,000 to it.
The bill would have mandated public financing of campaigns for the state's four highest offices in the 1982 election, and limited the total amount that could be spent by a candidate in the governor's race to $600,000.
Despite initial support for the measure and heavy lobbying by Maryland's Common Cause, the bill was killed in the House Constitutional and Administrative Law committee.
In the final days of the session, the Senate also killed the only ethics reform bill of the year -- a proposal to limit campaign contributions by businesses with state contracts.The Senate simply refused to consider it. Local Legislation
The Prince George's and Montgomery County delegations disposed of their hometown legislation this year with only a few signs of the infighting that frequently characterizes such issues.
Both Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist and Prince George's Executive Lawrence J. Hogan won enactment of most of their legislative proposals. Most significantly, the legislature passed a Gilchrist measure that will allow the Montgomery County Council to levy a four percent tax on the sales of rental units being converted to condominiums.
Gilchrist estimates that taxes to be paid by condominium developers on the first 2,000 rental units would amount to $4.8 million. The money, he said, will be channeled into a housing assistance program to assure the production of 2,000 new rental units for low and moderate-income families through low-interest loans for developers.
Hogan's first priority in the legislature this year, a bill that will allow Prince George's to receive nearly $10 million in state funds that have been held up for a year, also won easy enactment.
The measure will restore borrowing power to Prince George's agencies that was taken away as a side-effect of the tax-limiting TRIM charter amendment. Under the bill, the county's ability to borrow by issuing bonds will again be taken away unless county voters approve a charter amendment version of the bill in next November's general election.
In the meantime, passage of the bill will allow Prince George's to issue bonds for school projects and receive another $10 million in school funds from the state. These funds had been held up because of the county's inability to meet state requirements that they raise designated amounts of funds before receiving the grants.
Probably the most controversial local issue was a proposal by Montgomery Del. Luiz Simmons (R) to curtail the property tax breaks enjoyed by the county's exclusive country clubs. After weeks of debate that drew extensive media attention, Simmons' bill passed the Montgomery delegation, but died when Montgomery senators, at the urging of country club member Sen. Laurence Levitan, referred it to a state commission for "further study."