- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 19, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Innkeeper Peg Bednarsky, known on State Circle as “Miss Peg,” thinks of herself as a mother to the lawmakers who live at the Governor Calvert House during the General Assembly’s 90-day legislative session.

For 37 years, she has taken care of senators and delegates who make Annapolis their second home. Dozens of them bid her “good morning” as they emerge for breakfast and hot coffee.

These days, she sees her brood working harder than ever.

Longtime lawmakers are accustomed to the complex and demanding work of the busy legislative session. But they now must work more in the summer as state legislators, crisscrossing Maryland on task-force tours or attending meetings and committee hearings.

In many cases, they’re coming to realize that part-time lawmaking is full-time work.

Mrs. Bednarsky thinks the Internet has contributed to the change.

“Because they didn’t have the technology, the workload wasn’t as hard,” she said. “There was a slowness to it. There wasn’t the immediacy of, ‘You’ve got to react to that e-mail, that constituent, that reporter.’ ”

Delegate Charles E. Barkley, a Montgomery Democrat, said he spends much of his day answering the 300 e-mails his office receives. He says many are from voters who expect a response.

Mr. Barkley said the hands-on nature of the work, in addition to the new technology, makes the job more hectic. He said after his election in 1998 he embarked on a statewide bus tour for incoming legislators that lasted five days.

Mr. Barkley recently shadowed doctors to learn more about medical malpractice reform. Last summer, he toured horse farms.

Delegate Nancy J. King and other members of the House Ways and Means Committee held a dozen public meetings around the state in the summer of 2003 to talk to voters about legalizing slot machines.

“We’ve spent hours and hours and hours listening to every aspect,” said Mrs. King, a Montgomery Democrat. “We’ve looked at just about everything there is to look at.”

From April of last year through January, she traveled to Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Portland, Ore., Santa Fe, N.M., and five other cities as part of a national association of state legislators’ study of changes to President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

Thirty-seven members of the legislature, or 20 percent, are lawyers; another 37 consider themselves full-time legislators; 25 report themselves as businessmen and women; 15 are educators. Lawmakers’ salaries are $40,500.

Mr. Barkley left behind 100 middle school students when he joined the General Assembly. He took three months of leave without pay. The school system found a substitute math teacher to take over his classroom, but he stayed in contact with her to manage his lesson plans. Before long, his double-life became unworkable.

“Taking three months off for the legislature made it impossible to stay,” he said.

He switched to an administrative job to accommodate his new life as a lawmaker. Now, he’s retired.

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