- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland's lawmakers yesterday began their 90-day session with the usual time-honored ceremonies played out against a backdrop of 21st century security concerns.
The 90-day legislative session is expected to be dominated by debate on how to balance the state budget without tax increases or major spending cuts.
State Sen. Barbara Hoffman, Baltimore Democrat, characterized it as a year when the 188 senators and delegates would focus primarily on the three R's "redistricting, recession and re-election."
The once-a-decade process of drawing new districts for choosing members of the state legislature already is proving to be a volatile issue. Since 2002 is an election year, lawmakers may pause as they consider bolder, potentially controversial proposals.
The economic downturn, meanwhile, has given lawmakers less money to work with.
"There have been some times where there's a great abundance, there's been years where we've been able to make an imprint and there's been years where the budget is a little tight," said state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Prince George's County Democrat. "We're going to have a little of all that this year."
Lawmakers this year also will be taking up anti-terrorism measures and other security issues raised by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Yesterday, there were prominent reminders that much had changed since the 2001 session adjourned in April.
For the first time, visitors to the historic State House had to pass through metal detectors, and public access was limited to one or two entrances in each building.
In the Senate, country singer Brooke Steuart, a former State House page, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
One of the first measures to pass, after the usual nominations and elections of majority leaders, was a resolution expressing "sympathy in remembrance of September 11, 2001, when foreign terrorists conducted inhumane, murderous attacks on the United States."
In the House of Delegates, Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany County Democrat, asked a Muslim cleric to offer the opening prayer as a demonstration of the nation's commitment to religious tolerance.
In his prayer, Mohammed Bashar Arafat, director of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, asked God to help the United States to continue to prosper and serve as a role model for the world.
Mr. Taylor noted that the terrorist attacks claimed the lives of more than 50 Marylanders.
"This attack, like no other event in recent memory, has brought our country and our Maryland community together," Mr. Taylor said.

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