Back to House Work with Del. Mary Ann Love
A Bay Weekly Conversation , with Editor Sandra Olivetti Martin
In the Maryland House of Delegates, which begins its 90 days of deliberation this week, Anne Arundel’s Mike Busch speaker of the 141-member House is the high man on the totem pole. But at home in Anne Arundel County, even the boss has a boss: Affable, motherly Mary Ann Love, 67, of Glen Burnie, has chaired Anne Arundel County’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly since 1999 and expects she’ll continue into her 11th year in 2008.
“They can be very temperamental, these guys,” she says of the male-dominated delegation. Of its 15 members, 10 are men. “I’m a mother, I tell them,” she says when they get difficult.
A few years back, when newly elected Republicans reached a near majority, they challenged Love’s authority.
“I just got to the point where I said, We’re here for the people, not for you and me. If you want to work with us, do or don’t,” Love recalls. They did. Now, Love reigns in a delegation ranging from the far right wing to the liberally left of center.
“This group has been fantastic. There are some wonderful middle-of-the-road Republicans willing to sit down and work issues out,” says Love.
That’s Love’s style. She says she hates to stand up and talk and calls herself a compromiser, who “likes people to sit down at the table, say let’s fix it and move on.”
So well does Love live up to her name that it’s become Speaker Busch’s annual tradition to ask her to give the prayer calling the House to business.
After previewing upcoming legislative business with Bay Weekly, Love was off in search of this year’s prayer. A short one.
Bay Weekly Did you get all the hard work done in the special session?
Mary Ann Love Getting rid of the deficit was very important. What I liked about the special session was that any tax we passed was dedicated to a specific project, so we knew how we’d get rid of the deficit. The penny we added on sales tax, for example, we designated to a transportation trust fund because we felt by that everybody uses roads and busses.
Now that we don’t have the deficit over our heads, we can begin fresh.
Bay Weekly What do you think of the special session’s decision to put slots to a popular vote?
Mary Ann Love I still oppose slots, but the only way for us to handle it was to get it on the ballot. My position is, if you’re going to do slots this year, do it all; casinos, too, because it’s going to come to that.
I think the vote in November could be tight. It’s going to depend on who works for it. If churches get behind opposing slots, it could fail.
Bay Weekly There’s still work left over from the special session on the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund …
Mary Ann Love We set up a $50 million fund for Bay restoration, paying for nutrient reduction with taxes on gasoline and rented cars. How to use the money is going to be a hot topic. Recommendations will come out of the Environmental Matters Committee.
Bay Weekly After all that in the special session, the next three months will be smooth sailing?
Mary Ann Love It’s not going to be a pleasant session. We know we’ll have to do without, but we all still put bills in asking for money. I say, If you’re going to ask for money, vote for [tax increases] and take the hit like the rest of us.
It’s also going to be a difficult session in another way. It’s going to be open season on social bills. Many of us would rather not spend our time there, but they seem to be the issues of the times.
Equality Maryland wants a Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, for example. Don Dwyer in our Anne Arundel delegation will be working on the other side of that, but there are delegations with real strong views opposite Dwyer’s.
Bay Weekly Are other social issues going to be pushed into the session?
Mary Ann Love Immigration’s another. It’s a federal issue, and they won’t take care of it.
We have immigrants living in our neighborhoods up north in the county. They keep up their property and seem to be very hard workers. We have only three farms left, but we wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for immigrant workers.
We send them back, then there’s nobody to do many of the jobs they’re doing. So we need some kind of documentation.
My grandfathers came over from Ireland legally because no one would work in the Pennsylvania coal mines. We are a melting pot, a nation of immigrants.
Bay Weekly What’s on your mind in this session?
Mary Ann Love I’m somewhat fortunate to have Base Realignment and Closure affecting my district. An awful lot of people will be moving in. Already there have been lots of meetings trying to get federal money to bring in roads, build schools and make up for lost tax dollars. Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold is looking for something like $20 million in federal money.
Bay Weekly Ever-rising fuel prices gas, heating oil, BG&E bills are pains we all feel, especially people on fixed incomes. What can the General Assembly do this session to ease that pain?
Mary Ann Love Yes, it hurts everybody, even the wealthy, but most of all it hits the most vulnerable.
Of course energy will be coming back in this Assembly. It’s been assigned to be considered in Economic Matters, the committee I work on. Three lobbyists visited my office yesterday with legislative proposals.
I don’t want to say what’s going to happen, but we want to do aggregation, where people bundle together as a community to buy energy much more cost effectively. We’ve heard about the Odenton Town Center’s concept to create their own energy. We’ll also be looking at additional reorganization in the Public Service Commission.
Stay tuned. This will be the year of energy.
Bay Weekly What are you working on in particular?
Mary Ann Love I’ve been working with a group of seniors, who are dissatisfied that they have no say, no feedback on how their continuing-care facility uses their money. The facility also keeps raising the cost of their homes and apartments, and this is draining. We’re going to try to get some legislation so they can have some feedback. It’s a very interesting bill to work on.
Bay Weekly You mean legislation can start that close to home?
Mary Ann Love There are some issues that are very local, as well as some issues that need the whole General Assembly.
Bay Weekly What are your key skills as a legislator?
Mary Ann Love I believe in listening and compromising. Half a loaf, the way I see it, is better than none. If you get to the table, you can always improve it later.
Ginger Cove, the continuing-care facility I’m referring to, is a difficult one. We’ve been working on it gradually, and that’s the way it should be. You shouldn’t be able to go in and say I’m going to do this.
I was a legislative aide to a county councilman for eight years; community service and constituent work is my love. I’ll say I’ll handle it, sometimes, when people call. My secretary hates it, but people like it when their delegate takes the phone. They call about a lot of things: senior citizens, scholarships, problems with Department of Motor Vehicles or the airport that’s in my district. That’s how I know what’s going on.
But I also don’t call the departments and play big momma. I say I’ve got a problem; I’ve sat where you sit. I don’t get the big head.
The way I see it, you never let your feet go away from the ground; remember where you came from. We’re all the same; I’m living just like you do.
Bay Weekly Are you eager to get back to work?
Mary Ann Love Now, everybody’s going around like mummies. So it’s good that business starts fairly slowly, ceremonially. By Feb. 1, each day begins at 7 or 7:30am. At eight at night, I might finally see my office. The paperwork is so bad that each day’s work gets stacked on my chair for me to weed out.
I try to make a little time for family life during session; my husband comes to Annapolis one night a week, and I go home on Wednesdays, when I can see two of my grandsons. I have two sons, 41 and 42, and five grandsons with a new grandchild expected in 2008.
It’s a fast pace. I wouldn’t want it any other way, but 90 days is enough.