ONE OF MARYLAND'S time-honored tacky political traditions may disappear as fast as a stack of crabs at a legislators' free trough in Annapolis: leaders of both houses of the General Assembly are asking members to stop holding those lobbyist-luring political fund-raisers during the legislative session. House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. don't like the idea that lawmakers are passing their collection plates at the same time that they're considering and voting on bills dear to the wallets of lobbyists and their clients. The two leaders also have been trying to get lobbyists to refrain from their increasingly common habit of helping legislators sell tickets to fund-raisers.
Compliance with any of these requests is likely to be voluntary, apparently, which should be a good test of each lawmaker's willingness to carry on as before, as opposed to carrying on later when the session is over. It will be tricky too, trying to subdue those dear-heart lobbyists who are so willing to pitch in and help sell tickets for all those busy legislators.
Speaker Mitchell notes that his concern is not prompted by any specific occurrence this year or by the conduct of any particular member of the house. Heavens, no. This is just a preemptive strike. It's also a good idea. The lobbyists and the politicians will always find ways for the bucks to stop at the right place; surely the nightly air of hospitality in Annapolis -- the spirit of friendship, the warmth of sustenance, the openness of the bars -- will not be lost. But at least during the session, when bills are being voted on, some inkling of discretion should be evident.