August 31, 2010

After 48 years in Annapolis, Stone is hoping for another Senate term

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

In 1960, Norman Stone was so inspired by a young politician named John F. Kennedy that he worked on Kennedy’s campaign. In 1962, when a judge ruled that Maryland needed more members of the House of Delegates to accurately represent the people of the state, Stone threw his hat in the ring to fill one of the new seats.

The Dundalk Democrat from District 6 has been in Annapolis ever since – nearly a half century — and is the longest serving member of the legislature.

“I enjoy representing my district and being in a position where I am helping people,” Stone said. “I enjoy sponsoring and supporting laws that improve our way of living.”

Stone, 75, the Senate president pro tem emeritus, has seen state government change more than any other elected official currently serving. When he was first elected to represent Baltimore County, the state had no districts, just delegates and one senator to represent an entire county.

He remembers his earliest years in the House of Delegates as chaotic, with 13 Baltimore County delegates sharing the same office staff. Letters and phone calls often were not answered on a timely basis, and constituent services were almost nonexistent.

More changes came quickly during Stone’s first years in office. A ruling in another “one-man, one-vote”court case determined that the countywide senators also did not provide proportionate representation to the people. The state, for the first time, was split into districts, and the Senate expanded. For the first Senate election that was based on district seats, in 1966, Stone decided to run. He won that election – and has won every contest since.

“I think my record is strong,” Stone said. “I’m always trying to keep close to my constituents. …I figure they sent me down there to represent them.”

In 48 years of serving in the General Assembly, Stone served as chairman of several committees, and currently co-chairs the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

He said he has sponsored and brought groundbreaking legislation to the floor.

“Usually, when I put in legislation, there is a reason for it,” Stone said.

As an attorney and longtime member of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, he’s pushed a lot of legislation dealing with the criminal justice system. These include creating the state’s district court system, starting the state’s sex offender registration through what is commonly known as Megan’s Law, and adding more stringent requirements for evidence prosecutors must use in cases where they are seeking the death penalty.

Stone has also worked to increase penalties for serious crimes – both for crimes of violence against people and for mistreatment of animals, including cockfighting and dog fighting.

He was a member of the Governor’s Commission to Review Laws Governing the Workmen’s Compensation Laws, which essentially rewrote workers’ comp statutes in the state. He proposed legislation and launched a movement to require hybrid and electric cars – which operate quietly on battery power – to make noise so blind people can hear them. He also backed the move to ensure that people applying for Maryland driver’s licenses can prove they are legal residents of the state.

Although Stone has been victorious in a dozen elections through the years, he said he has had many tough battles. In 2002, he was a leader in the successful fight to overturn the legislative redistricting plan that would have split Dundalk, and given him constituents far across the Patapsco River in Anne Arundel County.

He is being challenged in the Democrat primary this year by Jordan Hadfield, and the winner will face Republican Bruce Kahl in November. http://www.jordanhadfield.com/

Stone noted that this is a race against political newcomers, not the type of heartbreaking challenge he has had in the past, where redrawn district lines put him in head-to-head competition with friends and colleagues. But, he said, it is a challenge all the same.

Stone said he still loves being a senator and helping his constituents.

“I want them to know they have a voice,” Stone said. “I’m their voice.”