The Maryland General Assembly folded up its tent and went home Monday night, so it's time once again for the Maryland Weekly's annual awards for the best and worst performances of the year.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SHORT SUBJECT: Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer, who has a notoriously short fuse, provided one of the genuine highlights this session when he appeared before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to plead for extra police aid for his city. It took Schaefer and Sen. John C. Coolahan (D-Baltimore County) approximately four seconds to get into one of their classic confrontations.
The mayor eventually stormed out in a huff, and it was weeks before he returned to Annapolis. Said one of the city's lobbyists, asked by a reporter when the budget committee would vote on the police aid bill: "I don't know. I just hope they do it before the mayor comes back to town."
BEST CONTINUING SERIES: Waiting for the Senate Finance Committee to vote on the Citicorp bill that was opposed by chairman Dennis F. Rasmussen (D-Baltimore County). Each day the media would query Rasmussen, and he would inevitably reply, "Probably today." Then he would delay the vote.
The only date cast in stone on Rasmussen's calendar this session was the night for his political fund-raiser, which was held when the Finance Committee was in the midst of deciding a host of heavily lobbied bills, including the Citicorp legislation. Rasmussen did very nicely at that fund-raiser, thank you.
BEST USE OF VISUALS: Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg, who presented a resolution to the Dunbar High School basketball team, the nation's top-ranked high school team, by standing on his chair so he could measure up to the team's center, who stands about 7-foot-9. Said the short-statured Steinberg to the team's coach: "Couldn't you send up someone a little shorter?"
THE INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH AWARD: This distinction goes to Del. Joseph E. Owens (D-Montgomery), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who sponsored the wildly unpopular measure to restrict gambling in private clubs and fraternal organizations. Owens and his committee held that hearing in the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, where several hundred opponents turned out to vilify the bill.
BEST ONE-LINER THAT NEVER MADE IT INTO PRINT: Members of the Prince George's County delegation in the House came up with a grand commentary the day that it was reported that Sen. Thomas Patrick O'Reilly was the subject of a drug investigation. It was the same day that Del. Richard A. Palumbo, who plans to run against O'Reilly for the Prince George's County Senate seat, was playing hooky to attend the ACC basketball tournament. The joke: "Where's Palumbo?" The answer: "Up at the Motor Vehicle Administration getting his new Senate tags."
THE MIDAS TOUCH AWARD: Gov. Harry Hughes provided another stunning performance on the abortion funding issue. In 1983, Hughes asked the legislature to approve more liberal funding guidelines. The House defeated them. In 1984, Hughes did not seek the change, and the House approved the guidelines without him, but they died in the Senate. This year, Hughes tried again, and lost in the House. Hughes had the same luck getting DeMatha basketball star Danny Ferry to attend the University of Maryland. On April 2, Hughes called Ferry to promote the Terps. On Tuesday, Ferry opted for Duke. Sorry, Lefty.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A KAMIKAZE: Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening took his delegation by storm with his 11th-hour proposal for an energy tax. Glendening failed to get enough votes to have the bill introduced.
THE MR. CLEAN ETHICS AWARD: Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist was invited for a weekend outing to Annapolis to use the house there that is rented by the county's lobbying office. "How much should I pay?" asked Gilchrist. What do you expect from someone who's going to a seminary in 1986?
THE GRIN AND BEAR IT AWARD: Lobbyist James Doyle Jr. gamely put up with endless ribbing after one of his clients sent clocks as Christmas presents to more than 100 legislators. The ethics committee ruled that the gifts had to be returned. For the first two weeks of the session, everyone who passed Doyle in the hallways asked him what time it was.
THE 15-YARDS-FOR-PILING-ON PENALTY: To the 11th, or 12th, or 13th or whatever it was lobbyist who was hired to defeat legislation banning phosphate detergents.
THE JOHNNY PAYCHECK AWARD: Coolahan told Steinberg what he could do with his spot on the Budget and Taxation Committee. Coolahan, angered by Steinberg's reversal of the committee's across-the-board budget cut, up and quit. For the sake of the press if nothing else, Coolahan should reconsider. The committee just would not be the same without him.
THE "OUT OF CONTEXT/I THOUGHT WE WERE OFF THE RECORD" AWARD FOR BACKING AND FILLING: This one's a tie between lobbyists Jay Schwartz and Ira Cooke. Schwartz, hired by the coal industry to promote legislation removing the prohibition on steep-slope strip-mining, nearly lost his bill when he predicted that it was "finished business" even before the first committee vote. When Schwartz testified on the House side, he spent more time repudiating the quote than he did defending his bill.
Cooke, hired to kill the phosphate ban, ventured perilously close to the truth when he said that "a lot of vodka went into" some amendments that opponents tacked onto the bill. Cooke said he did not remember saying that, and that if he did say it it was off the record.