GONE AND GRATEFULLY forgotten for one season at least was the traditional madhouse finale of the Maryland General Assembly--the eleventh-hour pork-and-perk buffet that stuffs pockets and mangles legislation. Though this year's State House class surely left a few legislative sleepers in the crannies before deserting Annapolis, the finish--like the start and middle--went unusually smoothly. But judging a legislature by its behavior--like counting the number of bills passed--is no accurate measure of performance. Call this one a growth year for a large freshman delegation--one-third of the membership; and, unless money grows on trees, things are not likely to be so calm in 1984.
The skilled veteran, House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin and the quick-study tenderfoot, Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg, kept the legislative pace even, while Gov. Hughes coasted most of the time with a modest agenda and a budget to match. But they left for next year some heavy financial considerations for education, for pay raises and for pensions--because this year's members took one hard look at the state's enormous pension costs and then passed the buck to a study committee.
Mr. Hughes already has warned that next year state income taxes are in for increases if he has a say. He should, and while everyone's at it next year, the income tax structure could stand a lot more progression--something that every legislature looks at before going into a four-corner stall.
If there was a throwback to the dirty days of yesteryear in Annapolis, it was the final-night smothering of the bill that would have stopped county tax breaks for clubs that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or creed. The house and senate had passed this bill, but it died when three opponents in the house, named to a conference committee to deal with a technical error in the language, stalled until midnight, when action stopped. Their inaction means that Montgomery County's taxpayers will have to subsidize this discrimination for at least another year, even though both bodies of the legislature had voted to stop it.
Next year, when more than a few taxes may be in for scrutiny by a revenue-hungry legislature, this and other misguided subsidies, by counties as well as the state, may look a lot uglier. So might the mood of the participants--when they start paying for the lull they chose to enjoy this time around.