June 2, 2010

Leaving the Legislature – Del. Ann Marie Doory

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

Ann Marie Doory’s daughter Beth was just a year-and-a-half old when Doory was sworn in to the House of Delegates in 1987. Now, as Doory leaves the legislature to accept the governor’s appointment to the Board of Contract Appeals, Beth has just graduated from law school at the University of Baltimore.

She’s joining the family trade, if you will. Her dad, Robert, is a lawyer and Ann Marie is a member of the bar as well. (Uncle Timothy is a Circuit Court judge.)

“There weren’t that many women lawyers” in the General Assembly when she was elected at the age of 32 to represent a Baltimore City district, Doory recalled, and “there were very few women with young children.”

Among bills she sponsored early on was one to require coverage for 48-hour hospital stays for women with newborns, at a time when insurers were trying to send new mothers home the day after birth. She also worked to get child wellness screenings that were not covered at the time.

During her six terms, Doory has served as vice chair of three of the six major committees in the House: Judiciary for eight years, Economic Matters for a four-year term, and this term on Ways and Means.

That variety “kept me going as a legislator,” Doory said. Sitting on the same committee with often the same bills year after year can be wearing, with the same subject matter and the same witnesses, she said.

“the hearings get stale,” said Doory.

The shift in assignments, controlled by the House speaker, allowed Doory to master new areas.

From 2003 to 2007, for instance, as vice chair of Economic Matters, legislation on public utilities was a hot topic.

In this last term, House Speaker Michael Busch made her vice chair of Ways & Means because “he needed people from Baltimore City” for geographic balance. The committee was at the center of the action on proposed tax hikes and slot machine gambling that passed during the 2007 special session.

On the Judiciary Committee, she had a hand in passing “Megan’s law,” which set up a registry for sex offenders. She also pushed legislation to get child-resistant locks on handguns, a bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Parris Glendening with President Bill Clinton present for the signing.

From 1998 to 2001, Doory unsuccessfully backed legislation to take guns out of the hands of people who had committed domestic violence. When Gov. Martin O’Malley decided to back the legislation, she said she gathered up all the testimony from previous attempts, and handed it to O’Malley legislative director Joe Bryce. “We tried it back in the day,” she told him. The restriction was enacted in 2009, with more protections passed this year.

One of the first pieces of legislation Doory sponsored was a consumer protection bill to prevent customers from having to list their phone numbers on credit card receipts — an early move to protect identity privacy. Having heard years of testimony from police about how criminals collect information, Doory is not a big fan of social networking sites.

The General Assembly has changed in the quarter century she’s been there.

“It’s less collegial that it was,” Doory said, partly because of the dynamics between individuals. “People don’t socialize as much,” and “it’s kind of got more partisan,” with more emphasis on ideology than public service.

“The best part of public service is being able to help a constituent. They call your office in frustration, more than anger. They’re humbled to have to call,” she said. “You’re there to solve problems and help people navigate the agencies. … If you’re not there to solve problems, what is the point?”

Doory said she really started thinking about leaving toward the middle of this year’s session, and mentioned to O’Malley she would be interested in an appointed position.

“It’s time after 24 years to make a change,” she said. Her new full time job on the Board of Contract Appeals gives her a six-figure salary reviewing protests and complaints about contracts awarded for state work. She replaces former Delegate Michael Burns on the three-member board, and will serve with former Del. Dana Dembrow and former Sen. Michael Collins.

“It will give me a chance to work in a different capacity” and it’s “a really good opportunity to challenge myself.”

“I’ve done a lot, and I’ve enjoyed it so much,” Doory said. “I think those of us who have had a good run – it’s nice to go out on your own terms.”