YES, THE MARYLAND General Assembly has called it quits for the year -- but no, this will not be another of those wrap-ups that cite eleventh-hour shenanigans, sloppy approvals of pasted-together measures nobody understands, a shopping list of measures and their fates or the sudden deaths of sacred bills. That wasn't the story. This time, there were aisles of tranquillity in the State House well before the Monday midnight deadline, even if a few little chores had some legislators racing around before the floors were cleared; and though some disgruntled analysts will invariably find excuses for rehashing sermons on the evils of "vote trading" -- or, if they're really sore about the outcome, "wheeling and dealing" -- the vote-swappers' balance of trades this year actually produced few unhappy returns.
Money always helps, of course, and when it comes in the form of a state surplus instead of in little white envelopes, all the better. With some generous flicks of the budget abacus, Gov. Harry Hughes was able to parcel out happiness in all directions, making his presence (this often reads "influence" or "pressure") that much more effective. Still, when it came to stopping a stampede toward bad spending-limit proposals, Mr. Hughes exercised his executive muscle impressively.
In its finest sense (translation: when the results are satisfying), vote trading works well. Without it, for example, the D.C. amendment, improvements in correctional facilities and other important measures might have died or come out looking like legislative shredded wheat. Closer to home, the delegations from both Montgomery and Prince George's counties came home with goods enough, the biggest being money for Metro. So after all those years of knocking Maryland for its less-than-squeaky-clean political reputation, this year's General Assembly deserves approval.