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Newest of the Newbie Delegates

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Six of Anne Arundel County’s 15 delegates are new this year, including the youngest delegate, Meagan Simonaire, 24, who is also part of the first ever father-daughter team with her father, Sen. Bryan Simonaire.

The newest of the newbies is Mike Malone, an attorney Gov. Larry Hogan appointed in the middle of March to fill the District 33 seat of Del. Cathy Vitale. Gov. Martin O’Malley had appointed Vitale a Circuit Court judge.

Coming into the legislature with only a month left to go, Malone was scrambling to figure out how things work. He had no previous experience with the legislature.

“I’ve read hundreds of bills in the last 10 days,” Malone said in an interview late last month. He was named to the House Judiciary Committee, which gets a high proportion of bills. “I’m used to reading laws.”

Malone runs a family law practice in Crofton, but lives in Severna Park. His lawyer wife is taking over his cases.

“I thought it would be good for this district to have a small businessman,” Malone said. He thought his “conservative values matched the district,” which is the most solidly Republican in the county, stretching from the West County to Arnold.

He said his political views parallel those of Hogan, and he thought he could help the governor achieve his goals of getting spending under control and reducing taxes.

“I’m supportive of trying to repeal some of the taxes,” Malone said, one of his key legislative goals. He’d also like to have a fairer process of redrawing district lines, especially for Congress.

Open Process

Malone’s name was sent to the governor by the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee. It had a very open process for his selection that state party officials wish other central committee would follow when other vacancies occur. Until the Maryland constitution is changed, party central committees play a commanding role in choosing a replacement for legislators of their party who leave.

The Anne Arundel GOP got 16 applicants for the job, including four who had run for the seat and lost last June. They interviewed the applicants in a public meeting and then took a vote.

This is actually the second time Malone was appointed to an important post by Hogan. He was first named in February to the State Board of Elections. Hogan was creating a new majority on the five-member board. When a new governor of the opposite party takes office, the state elections board and all the county elections boards, as well, flip their majorities to the party of the new governor.

Malone is not new to politics. He had run for county council in 2002 and was elected to the Republican Central Committee that year, eventually serving as its chairman.

Dredging the Magothy

Sen. Bryan Simonaire was stirring up trouble — even within his own Republican caucus — with his opposition to a small budget move that sets aside $250,000 for dredging of a small section of Deep Creek Lake, in far Western Maryland.

Simonaire’s fear is that the use of the Waterway Improvement Fund for a man-made lake will take money away from dredging projects in his district, specifically the upper Magothy River.

Anne Arundel County has the longest amount of shoreline of any Maryland county, with navigable rivers with waterfront properties to match. Without dredging to counteract the continual siltation of the channels, the docks on those waterfront properties become useless.

Some of these projects wait for years, especially since the Army Corps of Engineers has cut back on its funding for dredging. The Department of Natural Resources sets the priorities for what projects gets done.

“I think this is bad policy to override the priorities that the department has set,” said Simonaire, “particularly when his constituents can’t move their boats at low tide.”

Other projects, including the Magothy, “will be cut” to make way for Deep Creek, Simonaire is convinced.

Haircuts for Charity

Some delegates shave their heads because they don’t have much hair left. Delegates Sid Saab, another Anne Arundel freshman, and Eric Luedtke of Montgomery County, shaved away their thick locks this session to raise more than $4,000 in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which is dedicated to childhood cancer research.

Saab turned one of the delegation rooms into a barber shop, where fellow legislators could stop by to witness the shearing.

April Fool

The speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates is from Anne Arundel County, and on April 1 wielding the gavel at the rostrum at the start of session was Del. Nic Kipke of Pasadena, alias the minority leader. At Kipke’s desk in the front of the House chamber was Del. Mike Busch of Annapolis, a.k.a. the speaker of the house.

Kipke led the chamber in the Pledge of Allegiance, as happens each day, and introduced Del. Sally Jameson to lead the prayer. “Thank you, not the speaker,” she said.

When Kipke announced a quorum call, Busch stood and complained “My button’s not working,” a typical complaint from delegates who vote red and green thousands of time a session with the buttons at their desks. The delegates laughed.

Upstairs in the governor’s reception room at the Board of Public Works, Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement that he was running for president of the United States. “There are already two Maryland governors running,” said Hogan, referring to Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich. “Why not one more?”

April Fool.