The List: How does your legislator rank?

Posted by admin on April 1, 2010  |   Comments Off on The List: How does your legislator rank?

Influence is in the eye of the beholder: A look at perceived highs and lows in the House and Senate

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist — or the prodding of a political newspaper, for that matter — to figure out that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are the most influential lawmakers in the State House.

Still, The Gazette asked, and the results we received couldn’t be any clearer.

Each presiding officer topped his chamber’s list of most influential lawmakers, where presiding officers have landed in the two previous publications of “The List.”

Rank hath its privileges.

We asked a select group of State House observers who has, and who lacks, influence. Influence, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it’s the parliamentary prowess to pass a bill, or the legislative legerdemain to kill another. It could mean the brains to master a complex issue, or a good sense of timing — when to stand and when to stand pat.

The result is a highly unscientific poll. The margin of error is plus or minus a whole lot.

But even if the results need a grain of salt, political watchers with a sodium-restricted diet can enjoy some of the findings.

For one, money talks in Annapolis.

Five members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee are among the Senate’s most influential. And nine members of the House Appropriations and Ways and Means committees are among the most influential in the lower chamber.

For another, jurisprudence walks, at least in the Senate. Five members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee are on the least influential list. (Education, Health and Environmental Affairs provide four others.)

Another point: Political winds can blow in any direction. Two delegates made the top 20 most and least influential lists: Dels. Saqib Ali and Christopher B. Shank.

And one more point: The Annapolis political set doesn’t cut any slack for newbies. The legislature’s least-experienced members — Sen. Edward R. Reilly and Del. Charles A. Jenkins, who are both serving their first sessions this year — made the least influential list in their respective chambers.

By contrast, experience did little to boost the influence of the chambers’ senior members, Del. Hattie N. Harrison and Norman R. Stone Jr.

The Gazette previously assessed influence in 2002 and 2006.

As in previous years, invitations to participate were limited to a hand-picked group of State Circlers. E-mails with instructions on the voting were sent to lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, a handful of lobbyists, representatives of important organizations and a few experienced reporters.

With assurances of anonymity, we allowed respondents to write in what they thought about lawmakers. We present a sampling today. A dozen comments mention “smart.” Fifteen mention “respect.” Many talk about a legislator’s chances in 2010.

Respondents were asked to rank the top 10 senators and top 20 delegates. For a senator, a No. 1 vote got 10 points, a No. 2 vote got nine points, etc. For a delegate, a No. 1 vote got 20 points, a No. 2 vote got 19, etc. The lawmakers then were ranked by their point totals.

The least influential list worked the same way.

Internet balloting allows us to share the results for each member, as well as all the comments posted.

Democrats dominate the legislature, and they dominate our lists. All of the 10 most influential senators are Democrats, as are three of the least influential in the Senate. Two Republicans crack the top 20 in the House of Delegates, although seven of the least influential in the House are Democrats.

Each senator got at least one vote, either for his or her influence or a lack thereof. Five delegates — four Democrats and one Republican — received no votes either way.

20 most influential delegates

1. Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis
2. Maggie McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore
3. Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Upper Marlboro
4. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring
5. Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg
6. Dereck E. Davis (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro
7. Peter A. Hammen (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore
8. Norman H. Conway (D-Dist. 38B) of Salisbury
9. John L. Bohanan, Jr. (D-Dist. 29B) of California
10. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby
11. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Dist. 10) of Woodstock
12. Talmadge Branch (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore
13. Curtis S. Anderson (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore
14. Brian J. Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac
Michael L. Vaughn (D-Dist. 24) of Bowie (tie)
15. Justin D. Ross (D-Dist. 22) of Greenbelt
16. Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Dist. 13) of Columbia
17. James E. Proctor, Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Brandywine
18. Saqib Ali (D-Dist. 39) of Gaithersburg
19. Christopher B. Shank (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown
20. Brian K. McHale (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore

From the Maryland Gazette: