Two sophomore Anne Arundel County legislators share lessons as they dive into second General Assembly
- January 19, 2024
In November 2022, Anne Arundel County voters elected three new delegates and one new senator to represent them in Annapolis.
Two of the legislators, state Sen. Dawn Gile, a Democrat, and Del. Stuart Schmidt, a Republican, were elected to represent District 33, which includes Riva, Crofton, Odenton, Severna Park and Cape Saint Claire.
Last January, Gile, Schmidt and their freshman colleagues, Del. Andrew Pruski, a Democrat from District 33, and District 12B Democrat Gary Simmons, were thrown into their first General Assembly session just weeks after taking the oath of office. Both Gile and Schmidt sponsored legislation to varying effect and both learned valuable lessons from their first year in office, namely what it takes to get legislation passed and the humbling experience of reworking a bill that doesn’t pass muster.
Now, a year later, the pair have taken those lessons to heart as their second 90-day legislative session enters its second week. The lawmakers are even working on a piece of legislation together.
“When you get elected, campaigning is so vastly different than actually being in the legislature and learning the ins and outs of how things work,” said Schmidt, who lives in Crofton with his wife, Michele, and son.
The first-time legislator grew up in Glen Burnie and owns a real estate company with his wife in Millersville. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Before this session, other legislators and advocates reached out to Schmidt more than they did last year because “nobody knew who I was,” he said.
Gile, a Severna Park resident, is a lawyer who represents businesses of all sizes across the state in litigation. She has three daughters and her husband is retired from the Army, having served ] for the past 22 years. Gile is a member of the Finance Committee.
In her first session, Gile was the primary sponsor of 10 bills. Seven were passed and became law, including legislation helping military families, and expanding healthcare access and childcare in the state. Gile cosponsored a bill to allow disaster relief funding to be released without receiving certain federal or state disaster designations. It was among numerous bills sponsored by Anne Arundel County lawmakers to improve access to behavioral health resources, expand virtual school opportunities and refine police accountability oversight.
Gile was the primary sponsor of legislation that exempts certain childcare family homes and centers that provide services to children of military personnel from registration and licensing requirements for childcare providers in the state if the facility is certified under the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Coast Guard.
She also helped pass legislation that extends the Telehealth Preservation Act of 2023 into 2025 to allow the Maryland Health Care Commission to conduct a study on the “delivery of health care services through telehealth.”
Gile said her biggest victory was when she was chosen to defend the bill that would allow Maryland voters to enshrine abortion access in the Maryland Constitution. She offered her defense on the Senate floor about a month into her first session.
“I was given that responsibility, it was an honor, but also terrifying at the same time because it’s an issue that [I] as a woman and as a mother of three girls, felt that weight of the Supreme Court’s opinion,” she said referencing the court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade. “I wanted to do my job effectively to defend this right that I believed in, this reproductive freedom right, and I was very happy to see that pass.”
Voters will decide in a November referendum whether to amend the declaration of rights in Maryland’s Constitution to include reproductive rights. Election Day is Nov. 5.
One of the challenges Gile identified was trying to pass a bill that would impose reforms on ticket sales to the public, especially in regard to ticket resellers.
In December, Annapolis residents and performing arts centers realized that even they were not safe from rogue ticket resellers after a patron buying a ticket to see “The Nutcracker” at Maryland Hall noticed an uptick in ticket prices.
“Once we filed it, we learned a lot about this very complex process of selling tickets for shows. … We learned that what we were doing was not going to be the consumer-protecting bill that we wanted it to be,” she said.
Gile told the Capital in December that she plans to introduce new legislation to address the issue. The new bill would cap ticket resale profits at 10% and outlaw speculative ticket sales. The state attorney general’s office would handle complaints, enforcement and prosecution through its consumer protection division.
“It’s not only just an issue that affects big shows, it affects local type shows as well,” she said.
Gile said she also plans to introduce a bill that will protect military spouses from hiring discrimination.
Schmidt sponsored three bills last year, none of which became law. One bill would have allowed volunteer firefighter organizations to have access to state funding to purchase equipment. The bill died in committee.
He sponsored two other bills that would require the state to perform a housing impact analysis and rate new legislation based on the cost and availability of housing. The other would have extended protections at Maynadier Creek in Crownsville.
Schmidt said he hopes to get legislation passed this year, adding that committee membership is key to understanding how proposed legislation affects people.
This year, Schmidt is working with Gile on legislation that will close a loophole in how boating DUI offenses are prosecuted.
The bill arose from conversations with the parents of 21-year-old Nick Barton, who died in a boat crash in June 2022, Schmidt said. Barton and five other passengers were thrown overboard when their white center console boat struck a channel piling in the West River. Five passengers resurfaced; Barton’s body was later found in a search of the water.
Shayne Kenneth Smith, a 21-year-old from Churchton, was charged with negligent manslaughter and other crimes in Barton’s death. Smith was sentenced to 18 months in jail for his role in the deadly boat crash in June 2023.
Maryland does not issue boaters’ licenses. Instead, boaters are issued a card showing they completed a safety course.
The bill Schmidt is working on would mandate that the Department of Natural Resources create a database containing the names of people who have been barred by a judge from operating a vessel. Then, when a Natural Resources police officer stops someone, the officer can check to see if the person is on the list.
“There’s really not a playbook for how to be a legislator,” Schmidt said. “Coming into my second session, I think I’m a little bit more focused on passing a bill and really identifying what my path as a legislator is truly going to be.”
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