By Len Lazarick
Business ratings for Democratic members of the Maryland House of Delegates showed a sharp drop this year and scores for state senators declined as well, according to the latest Roll Call report from Maryland Business for Responsive Government. The group has been rating Annapolis lawmakers for 25 years.
“It’s pretty clearly a reflection of where the House stands philosophically,” said MBRG President Kim Burns, adding that it shows a shift to the left. “The decline in the Senate wasn’t as dramatic as it was in the House.”
In the House of Delegates, the dozens of members of the Democratic leadership had a cumulative score of 9% — meaning they generally only voted in accordance with business interests one time. In the Senate, the Democratic leadership had a cumulative score of 30%.
In the House, for instance, Speaker Michael Busch and Majority Leader Kumar Barve dropped from last year’s score of 33% down to 9%; Busch has a cumulative rating over his 25 years in the legislature of 50%, including this year drop; Barve’s cumulative score over 20 years is 40%
Burns said the “bright spot” in the Senate were the members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, where Chairman Ed Kasemeyer had a score of 45%, and two B&T subcommittee chairs had double-digit jumps in their scores: Sen. Jim Robey, D-Howard, went from 29% to 45% and Sen. James Ed DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel, went from 78% to 91%. That made DeGrange, a business owner, the top-rated Democrat in the Senate for the third year in a row.
Republican scores were again dramatically higher than Democratic ratings in a legislature where the GOP is a minority. House GOP leaders scored 92%, 10 times that of the Democrats.
The votes that established the rating included high-profile issues the legislature passed and MBRG opposed such a limiting the use of credit reports for employment checks and requiring union service fees for state-paid home-health workers. Other issues MBRG resisted were defeated, such as expanding the right to sue for discrimination over public accommodations.
One Democratic business owner who saw his rating go down is Del. Galen Clagett, a Frederick County Democrat who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on public safety.
“I’ve had a running battle with these [MBRG] people since I’ve been in the legislature,” Clagett told MarylandReporter.com. Clagett’s rating declined from 33% to 18% this past year, with a cumulative score of 35% for his 20 years in the House.
“It’s interesting how they fabricate these things to suit a certain message,” Clagett said. “I’m the Republicans’ worst nightmare. I’m a gun-toting businessman who votes Democratic.”
Clagett owns and operates a 40-person property management and real estate business that is celebrating 25 years in business. Clagett said his business grew 35% last year.
Other Democrats with business backgrounds could not be reached for comment.
Burns said the new lower ratings point out the need for “business to get out and communicate their message to individual legislators,” rather than relying on lobbyists.
One of the MBRG co-chairs, former Democratic Gov. Marvin Mandel (1969-1979), said: “Business has got to take some of the responsibility to reach out and educate the legislators. Since most legislators have little to no private industry hands-on experience, it’s really up to the business community to reach out and talk to, educate and inform their legislators about the issues and the impact of these considerations on everyday businesses. That’s the dialogue that Roll Call is really intended to begin.”