By Diane Rey
For Maryland Reporter
Del. Alice Cain was signing letters to constituents late one night when a familiar name caught her eye: Lucas Cain’s.
“My environmentalist son had written in to me and said, ‘What are you doing to protect the environment?’” she said. “It was such a proud mom moment. My kid’s not letting me off the hook for a second,” she said of her 13-year-old son, a 7th grader at Annapolis Middle School.
She responded, crossing out “Lucas” and writing “Luke” and ending with “Love, Mom.”
A couple of days later her letter arrived in the family’s mailbox. “We had a good laugh,” she said.
The familial exchange was one of memories the freshman delegate will take away from her first 90-day session in the Maryland General Assembly. Cain was one of eight Democrats to take over a seat previously held by a Republican.
In an interview for Maryland Reporter on Day 1, Jan. 9, Cain talked about her respect and admiration for House Speaker Mike Busch, her mentor and colleague in the two-member District 30A they shared that covers the capital city.
She spent a sleepless night on the eve of Monday’s final day of the session, Sine Die, she said, writing a tribute to him following his death Sunday afternoon after a bout of pneumonia.
On her last walk from the House of Delegates office building to the State House for the start of the 11 a.m. floor session Monday, she said Busch was on her mind.
“I was thinking how much I’m going to miss him, how much the State House is going to miss him, and how much the community of Annapolis is going to miss him,” she said. “It was great to see him in action here myself.”
A somber end to her freshman session
The House was notably somber Monday morning, with the speaker’s desk draped in black bunting. Delegates could be seen embracing or wiping away tears before they got down to the business of voting on bills. Instead of pushing through legislation all the way to midnight, when news organizations typically capture images of confetti raining down on the rostrum, the House and Senate ended work at 11:30 p.m. for a joint session to remember Maryland’s longest-serving House speaker.
In between floor sessions, there were caucus meetings and a few bill hearings. Cain said Busch would want their work to continue.
“I saw him always giving his all. I think he was an honorable, decent and kind person,” she said. “He personified what public service can be. He set the bar very high. I hope we can honor him by carrying on in the tradition of listening with respect and doing our best and never forgetting why we’re here.”
Cain, a Democrat who served on the Education Subcommittee of Ways and Means, said she came to Annapolis to focus on education, the environment, preventing gun violence, and healthcare issues and felt satisfied she’d accomplished what she set out to do in her first year, although not all of the bills she sponsored passed.
Sweeping education blueprint
She considered the legislature’s work to pass the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a $800 million measure to establish a framework for the so-called Kirwan Commission report to enhance public schools, one of its most significant actions. She contributed four amendments that made it through to the bill’s final passage in both houses on Friday.
Cain campaigned on a platform to reduce gun violence, spurred on by the murders of five Capital-Gazette employees in her district just days after the June primary. She voted to support all the gun control bills introduced this session. She said the issue was the most controversial she dealt with, based on the number of phone calls and volume of mail and email she received (over 100 emails alone).
We got over 100 emails on guns, about 60 percent from constituents and 40 percent from out of district. Of constituents, they were split very close to even in terms of message.”
In the final hours, House and Senate could not resolved their differences over the bill.
Representatives of the pro-bill group, Moms Demand Action, could be identified by their red shirts in the public galleries.
Earlier on Monday, The Patriot Picket, a pro-gun group, organized a rally on Lawyer’s Mall and arranged to have a small plane fly a banner over the State House that read: “#We Will Not Comply! How About You Larry?” calling for Gov. Larry Hogan to veto gun control legislation.
Cain worked with the speaker and Sen. Sarah Elfreth to pass a bill giving Annapolis more state funding to offset the cost of hosting the General Assembly each year.
She also worked with the freshman senator to establish Freedom of the Press Day on June 28, the day of the newsroom shooting. Both House and Senate versions of the resolution passed.
Cain chaired the Anne Arundel County delegation’s capital budget subcommittee, which doled out about $600,000 in bond money to local nonprofits in the arts, addiction counseling, domestic violence, mental health and historic preservation.
“It was inspiring work, learning more about what they’re doing,” she said.
Del. Nick Mosby, D-Baltimore City, who worked with Cain on the Ways and Means Committee, described her as insightful and said her background working on education policy on Capitol Hill was an asset. “She does her homework and is always willing to listen,” he said.
After working 12- to 15-hour days, Cain plans to listen to waves crash on the shore at the beach for a few days with her husband and two teenage boys after session.
“It’s intense. She’s got an intense job,” said Chief of Staff Erin Snell, who shared the secret weapon that got the office through to Sine Die: chocolate