Save the ridicule and failing grades for another session: as a group, the public servants in the Maryland General Assembly acquitted themselves with distinction this year. We haven't looked under every desk in the two empty chambers, but there don't seem to have been any eleventh-hour legislative atrocities perpetrated on the people of the Free State. Maybe the existence of a little extra spending money helped to elevate the thinking this time. In any event, the record of accomplishment is impressive.

Responsible lawmakers guided several important measures through opposition that included armies of lobbyists in full-time pursuit of just about anything that moved in the State House. The worst of these attacks had to be the Invasion of the Phosphates, which saw waves of lobbyists for soap and detergent manufacturers lunging at lawmakers in hopes of killing a ban on phosphates in the state. The ban survived, the lawmakers are the better for it -- and so might be the Chesapeake Bay.

Another usually influential group -- the state's bankers -- blew in en masse when Gov. Hughes announced that he had worked out a proposed agreement with Citicorp that would bring new jobs -- and Citicorp itself -- into Maryland in a big way. Hold it, said the state's bankers, and the legislators did -- until they took a hard look and negotiated a reasonable arrangement with Citicorp, along with provisions to allow a fair start on other interstate banking arrangements that should also be in the interest of individuals and small businesses in Maryland.

Give the governor and the legislature credit, too, for grappling with the high and still-rising costs of health care in the state, and for addressing child abuse, foster care and prison renovation.

The best measure of a legislature is not the number of bills passed or the amount of money approved for spending or the knockdowns scored on the floors. By these standards, this session was no thriller. But thanks to strong leadership by Senate President Melvin (Mickey) Steinberg and House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, the business of the state was conducted responsibly. Mr. Cardin put it this way: "There are those who have criticized this session for being dull. I assume the people who have raised this criticism are disappointed that we avoided controversy and that we acted with distinction and dignity."