When he feels that his colleagues are about to pass what he considers an ill-advised piece of legislation, the state Senate's most senior member, Frederick C. Malkus, often rises to speak.
"Go ahead and pass this," Malkus thunders. "I just hope when it gets across the hall, the House of Wisdom will see fit to kill it."
Across the hall is the House of Delegates; thus far this year, it has slain a number of Senate measures, for this is a Senate with a bill for every issue--and bills that often are at issue. Consider:
* Drunken driving legislation, an Annapolis bandwagon. Gov. Harry Hughes jumped on it a couple of years ago and has been riding it since. This year, Hughes backed a bill that would have authorized confiscation of a person's car after a second drunken-driving offense.
Aside from the constitutional questions the bill raised, it ignored the fact that not everyone owns two cars: Taking a family's lone auto might prevent an innocent spouse from reaching work and could cause other problems for family members as well, opponents noted.
No problem, the senators said. They passed the bill, and let Del. Joseph E. Owens (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, take the heat when it was later killed.
* Banking legislation. Sen. Jerome F. Connell (D-Anne Arundel), the new chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, sponsored a bill written by the banking lobby that, for all intents and purposes, would have allowed banks to compound interest by the minute and to confiscate property as soon as the buyer was late with a payment.
Pass this bill, Connell said, or all the banks will move to Delaware and the consumer will be hurt. Most of the Senate took him seriously and the bill was approved, 32 to 14.
By passing the bill, the Senate has accomplished the unlikely: It has put Del. Frederick C. Rummage (D-Prince George's) in the position of appearing to be a champion of the consumer. Rummage is the man who last year managed the bankers' bill on the floor with an open phone line to banking lobbyist William K. Weaver.
But this year Rummage took a realistic look at Connell's bill and said, "no way."
* Roper legislation. The senators were at their most eager on this publicity-rich issue, since many have questioned the sentence that could make Stephanie Roper's killers eligible for parole in 12 years.
Two weeks ago the House Judiciary Committee passed a package of bills that tighten Maryland's criminal sentencing laws, including one that increases the minimum time that must be served in a capital case from 15 to 25 years.
That wasn't good enough for the Senate, which brought to the floor a bill that would give juries the option of sentencing a defendant to life without hope of parole in a first-degree murder case.
No matter what one's position on the death penalty, this was a bill to vote against. Advocates of the death penalty, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Owens, say they believe that giving a jury the option to sentence someone to life without parole will mean few death penalty sentences.
Opponents of the death penalty find the no-parole option almost as objectionable, not only because of what it means for a defendant but for what it does to those who must live with him. Tell prisoners they aren't getting out--no matter what they do--and there is no incentive for good behavior. Where does that leave fellow inmates, not to mention prison guards?
Sen. Julian L. Lapides (D-Baltimore) noted these problems in an eloquent speech, but when the vote was cast, however, Lapides was the only one to say no. The tally was 38 to 1.
Several senators acknowledged that they had voted for the bill only because they knew the House would kill it. "If I voted against it, I would be tarred and feathered back home," one said.
Maybe the time has come for Senate members to spend less time worrying about how their votes will play back home. It is unfair to the House of Delegates and to the state for the Senate to continue passing legislation it knows the House will kill.