Finally, from the chaos, came nostalgia. When the clock struck midnight Monday in the Maryland General Assembly, four bills remained on the desk of House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin. In a reversal of form, the Senate had completed its work.
But even on a relatively calm 90th day, the scrambling went on until the end. Committees met hastily in the lounges and Del. American Joe Miedusiewski (D-Baltimore) fought his way through delaying tactics in the final seconds to get a bill passed even as opponents of the bill (involving state procurements) tried to stall away the final minutes by explaining their votes.
When midnight came--a time when, as Del. O. James Lighthizer put it, "The Republic was safe once again"--the legislators followed the lead of Gov. Harry Hughes and patted themselves on the back.
Cardin and Senate President James Clark Jr. each spoke in their closing speeches of how proud they were of the work that had been done. And House Majority Leader Donald B. Robertson (D-Montgomery) thanked virtually every person who was in the chamber, and many who were not.
Delegates who had chafed all evening as Cardin kept the work coming at them were in a hooting and hollering mood. The minority leader, Del. Raymond E. Beck (R-Carroll), made a nostalgic speech about his 10 years in the House, remarks that were treated seriously until he mentioned his Republican Party. That started the hissing again from the overwhelmingly Democratic delegates.
When the time came to declare the two houses adjourned "sine die"--indefinitely--a final mild surprise awaited the governor. At their request, Cardin had appointed Dels. Timothy F. Maloney (D-Prince George's), Mark C. Medairy Jr.(D-Baltimore County) and Paul Muldowney (D-Washington) to carry out the ceremonial task of informing Hughes that the legislature had adjourned. The three delegates have been among the most outspoken critics of Hughes during the last four years.
"We're going over there to tell him we've recessed so he doesn't come over here Tuesday and wonder where everyone is," Muldowney said in a parting shot at Hughes.
But for the most part this was a day for partying, for early drinking and, as Del. Steve Sklar (D-Baltimore) said, "for forgetting all the petty jealousies and enjoying being a part of this."
Sklar, whose bizarre multicolored tie was outdone only by Del. Frank B. Pesci's (D-Prince George's) blue Hawaiian jacket--which he wears annually on sine die day--drew one of the larger hands in the closing speeches.
"I rise to address the other 50 percent of you, those of you who are nonleadership," Sklar said half jokingly. "You are the ones who determine what the leadership of this house does."
Sklar got a big hand for that, but the biggest whoop of the night on the House side was reserved for Del. Wendell Phillips (D-Baltimore), a minister, who thanked his fellow members "for giving me enough sermon material to last me the next 20 years."
As might be expected, almost all the members of the Senate felt obligated to say at least a few words before the chamber was emptied for the final time. Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery) referring to the recently resolved feud between the Montgomery County and Baltimore city delegations, said, "we found out we were all reasonable men and we now walk hand in hand together."
His somber words were greeted by giggles.
Other senators also tried to be serious. Sen. Frederick C. Malkus (D-Dorchester), who was participating in his 38th sine die night (including regular and special sessions), harked back to the days when the Eastern Shore dominated the legislature, Malkus complained that the new urban majority does not treat the new rural minority with the respect it had been accorded in the past.
Sen. Tommie Broadwater Jr.(D-Prince George's) foreshadowed what many of his colleagues were about to do, admitting, "The main thing on my mind right now is doing some partying."
The traditional, night-long end-of-session celebration had been on the minds of many assembly regulars--members, employes and reporters--most of the day. Beginning with the lunch break on the House side, committees and delegations held parties and passed out awards. While the senators got individual commemorative plaques, Cardin stuck to the committee system until the end, visiting each committee for a brief speech and then presenting each member with a plaque.
The relaxed atmosphere of adjournment day 1982 was in marked contrast to most recent years, when filibusters slowed or stopped the Senate and the House fiddled and twiddled in frustration, watching bills die at the desk with the midnight deadline.
As the final hour approached tonight, none of the usual hysteria was present. As early as last Saturday, senators began looking ahead, wandering around the floor to get their colleagues to sign plaques they had been presented for their legislative work.
"This looks like the last day of camp," said Sen. Dennis F. Rasmussen (D-Baltimore County). "The next thing we're going to do is vote for best all-round camper."
Moments earlier, Rasmussen had stood mouthing soundless words into his microphone so a photographer could snap away for his campaign brochure. Sen. Howard A. Denis (R-Montgomery) had been doing the same thing while Sen. Harry J. McGuirk (D-Baltimore) was giving a committee report. Seeing Denis with microphone in hand, McGuirk thought there was a question.
"I yield to the senator from Montgomery," McGuirk said.
Caught by surprise, Denis rebounded: "I just wanted to tell the senator he's doing an excellent job explaining this bill," he said, sitting down to a chorus of catcalls.
But when it really was over, when the required speeches had been made and the ovations given, there were some genuine feelings of nostalgia because, as Beck put it, "for varying reasons, some of us will never return to this chamber and that means this House will never be the same again."
And so, as the clock moved toward 1 a.m., no one on either side of the State House seemed in a rush to adjourn. Even the usually implacable Cardin showed some emotion during his final round of thanks.
Finally, as pages dropped confetti from the balcony, the House adjourned at 12:45 a.m. and five minutes later the Senate called it quits, and the Maryland General Assembly, for the 377th time in its long history, adjourned sine die.
The legislators, all 188 of them, having made sure the photographers had taken their pictures for campaign brochures, headed out to party. The legislating for 1982 was finally over. In several hours, the serious campaigning would begin.