ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 9 -- Maryland legislators convened today pledging quick action on two controversial issues, abortion and campaign finance, but voicing apprehension over the state's tight finances and other fights to come.

As they gathered to start new four-year terms after November's statewide elections, the lawmakers took the oath of office before a throng of friends and relatives, then reelected Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent) to their leadership posts. The rest of the largely ceremonial day was consumed with parties and receptions.

Miller and Mitchell told the newly installed lawmakers to expect a session of hard choices as they try to craft one of the most austere state budgets in recent memory and grapple with major controversies such as gun control and the state's role in directing land use.

"I can never remember coming into a session in 20 years with such uncertainties," Mitchell said.

The administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer already has trimmed $423 million from the current budget. Because of his struggle to ease a deficit of more than $200 million in the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning in July, Schaefer told lawmakers he will not meet next week's deadline for introducing his budget.

In coming weeks, legislators will have to decide whether to ratify many of Schaefer's earlier spending cuts and to approve the use of reserve funds to balance the budget. Mitchell and other legislators are ruling out a tax increase, but their resolve is likely to be tested by an administration eager to move ahead with new projects.

"It's going to be a very, very trying year . . . and maybe four years," Mitchell told the House of Delegates.

"This is going to be a Senate of hard work and even tougher decisions," Miller said. "True politics is never easy. And that is what we are going to practice: the politics of solving crises . . . . We're going to be besieged by irate taxpayers. Time and time again we are going to be divided."

But on at least two controversial fronts -- abortion and campaign finance -- Miller said early action appears likely.

After watching the Senate split apart during an eight-day abortion filibuster last spring, Miller said he will take responsibility for allowing the abortion-rights majority to craft a bill and send it to the House, where Mitchell is expected to push for approval.

Miller announced joint hearings on abortion and added that if a bill guaranteeing abortion rights does not clear the Senate, "it's my fault."

He said he has not yet gotten commitments from the 32 senators needed to avoid extended debate but said, "We'll stay on this issue {even} if it takes all session."

Miller also said he and Mitchell soon will announce their proposals for changing the state's lobbying and campaign finance rules, areas in which Mitchell has stymied change for years.

Miller said the details of the proposals are being worked out with Common Cause and should include new restrictions on donations from political action committees and new disclosure requirements for lobbyists' gifts.

Miller said he and Mitchell think the General Assembly suffers "perceptually" from the large amounts of money controlled by PACs and lobbyists during elections and spent on lawmakers by those seeking to influence them.

The Baltimore Evening Sun recently reported that the state's top lobbyist, Bruce C. Bereano, spent an average of about $800 per legislator on gifts and meals but did not have to disclose the specifics.

While insisting that the problem is more severe in states such as Virginia, where individual campaign donations can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Millier said action still needs to be taken.

"I think the legislature should know who that money is being spent on and what is being bought," he added.

Today ushered in 45 new faces to a General Assembly that, as a result of last fall's voting, includes more blacks, women and Republicans.

The most significant change came in the 47-member Senate, which welcomed 10 freshman members, including three from the Washington suburbs who replaced veteran lawmakers.

In both chambers, Montgomery and Prince George's counties will enjoy increased stature in the form of committee leadership posts and the elevation of Del. Nancy K. Kopp (D-Montgomery) to speaker pro tem.

After the House swearing-in ceremony, delegates adopted a resolution in memory of Del. Patricia H. Billings (D-Montgomery), who died recently. "Her progressive agenda is still with us," Kopp said in a floor speech.

Meanwhile, amid his happiness at being reelected speaker, Mitchell got a reminder today of the questions being raised about his land transactions on the Eastern Shore.

While talking with reporters, Mitchell was approached by former U.S. senator Joseph D. Tydings (D-Md.), a onetime member of the state House. "I'm a litigator," Tydings told Mitchell. "Let me know if you need any help."