ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — With the Maryland General Assembly in the third week of this year’s session, restrictions from the pandemic have dramatically changed the way lobbyists at the State House do their jobs.
While senators and delegates may come and go, it’s the lobbyists who have the institutional memory – and that memory may be more important this year than at any time in Maryland history.
There are more than 500 lobbyists who do business at the State House. Records filed with the Maryland Ethics Commission say their clients — the horse racing industry, health care interests, teachers, regulated utilities — paid more than $55 million last year to present their views to lawmakers. With the pandemic, there is a whole new dynamic.
Sushant Sidh with government relations firm, Capitol Strategies LLC, said, “Individual access, meetings, actual hearings that are in person, conversations in the hallway which make our profession a lot easier – we can’t do.”
Still, the people’s business needs to be done. Michael Walsh is an associate at Capitol Strategies on State Circle.
“There’s some things last session that I think came to a quick stop,” said Walsh. “I wouldn’t be surprised if those issues pop up again.”
Despite all the restrictions at the State House, a budget has to get passed, and relief to households and small business is desperately needed. Sidh keeps track of it all.
“It has been a robust session to this point,” says Sidh. “There are a number of bills in. I think we’ve got 500 to 600 bills in the House. 300 to 400 in the Senate. These bills are continuing to come in. So our clients do have interests and they are being served.”
Due to COVID, the Maryland legislature adjourned early last year, the first time it has done that since the Civil War. Despite all the restrictions which limit access to senators and delegates, Sidh and his team keep their fingers on the pulse of the people’s business at the General Assembly.
The legislature plans to conclude its session April 12.