'Green' lobbyists invade Annapolis

Citizen activists promote environmental bills and issues at the State House

By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer

Sometimes, for a citizen navigating the halls of the State House, life can be challenging.

There are tunnels to navigate, endless stairs to climb and hidden offices to find.

But other times, there are bright spots.

Last night, a group of environmental activists crowded into Del. Mary Ann Love's office, prepared to pepper her with facts about raising money for the environment and stopping sediment pollution.

"We're here to ask for your support," Annapolis resident Joan Willey said earnestly.

Mrs. Love's quick reply: "I will."

The activists let out a collective sigh of relief and moved on to a relaxed conversation with the delegate about environmental issues, and her concern about people who keep too many pigeons at their homes.

After the meeting, they checked Mrs. Love off as a sure supporter of their bills and moved on to the next meeting.

It was all part of the annual Environmental Lobbying Night in Annapolis.

Each year, various environmental groups marshal their members and explain the finer points of key environmental bills being considered in Annapolis. Then the members fan out to talk with their senators and delegates.

The lobbying night is unique in that the various environmental groups agree on a handful of issues to support, even if they aren't the top issues of each and every group.

Last night's lobbying focused on the so-called "green fund" or "driveway tax" that would raise money for the Chesapeake Bay, as well as a bill to require more advanced stormwater controls on new buildings.

While important, those issues aren't the top priority of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, for example, which is focusing on global warming. But the CCAN activists were there in force last night, ready to support the bills.

After lobbying, some volunteers gathered at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters office nearby to make "mud globes."

Mud globes are something akin to snow globes. But instead of a winter scene with fake snow, they show an underwater scene - and when you shake the globes, dirt fills the water, an example of sediment pollution.

The mud globes will be distributed to lawmakers in the coming weeks.

The lawmakers and their staff members said they like to hear from constituents on issues they're passionate about, especially on Mondays, when organized groups usually come to Annapolis.

"It's nice to see the groups working together. It's good for us to see you," Iris Frey, legislative assistant to Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, told the group of Anne Arundel activists.

The group almost didn't make it to the meeting with the Republican senator from Pasadena. They knew for sure he was in Room 401 - but initially went to Room 401 in the wrong Senate office building, which belongs to a senator from Hagerstown.

Once in Mr. Simonaire's office, though, they gave him a big cheer for supporting the "Clean Cars" bill to tighten emissions standards. Then they implored him to support the green fund and the stormwater rules.

Mr. Simonaire said he's concerned about the bay, but couldn't make any promises.

"I will look at it and give it the greatest consideration ... As they say, the devils are in the details," he said.

The group got a similar response from Del. Ron George, R-Arnold, who ticked off a list of environmental bills he's sponsoring, many of them related to tax credits and incentives for eco-friendly practices like solar panels.

The Anne Arundel group last night included a mix of veterans and newcomers, and they agreed that the lobbying night was worthwhile.

Earl Bradley of Annapolis, a longtime volunteer with the Sierra Club, said he feels like more and more politicians are picking up on environmental issues.

"What strikes me is that the environment is becoming bipartisan," he said. "Members of both parties are interested."

Lisa Todd of Annapolis said that when she was first asked to talk to a senator last year, she was terrified.

But then she had a realization that gave her confidence: "They're here for us."

Published February 20, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

(Revised Feb 2007)