By Heather Norris
Dels. Charles E. Sydnor III, a lawyer, and Pat Young, a Marine Corps veteran and veteran education advocate, began this year's legislative session with cursory knowledge of the inner workings of Annapolis.
During the session, Sydnor, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, submitted legislation including a bill that would exempt police body cameras and recording devices from state wiretapping laws.
Young, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, submitted bills that included legislation that would ensure dependents of military veterans access to in-state tuition rates at Maryland colleges and universities.
Last week, they spoke with the Catonsville Times about the session and their plans for District 44B.
Catonsville Times: So we're at the end of your first General Assembly session. How would you describe the experience?
Sydnor: I've really enjoyed the experience. ...I've had an opportunity to get two bills through the House of Delegates. I had hearings before two Senate committees yesterday. One committee came out in favor of a bill that deals with establishing behavioral health units Baltimore City and Baltimore County police departments and it established some important criteria. So that goes to the second reader. I also had a hearing on a bill that would provide an exception for Baltimore's officers from the wire tap law so that it would kind of lay the groundwork for the usage of body camera across the state of Maryland. It's been a great experience and I'm very glad to be here.
Young: I'd say exhilarating, but only because it's so new. There were a lot of surprises and ups and downs going from week to week. It's been a very humbling process, but also exciting at the same time. I think exhilarating would be a good way to put it. It's never what you think it's going to be, but at the same time it meets your expectations. You're coming in, you're hoping to learn, but at the same time you know you've got some experience in the past. But now that it's you who's the actual delegate, the person doing the work, it's just different.
CT: What were your goals coming into your first session?
Sydnor: Primarily I wanted to make certain that I begin to learn how things work down here in Annapolis. My intention was probably to sponsor more than one bill. I think I sponsored — primarily sponsored — about five bills. But each of them was a learning experience. I wanted to ensure that I begin to develop relationships with other legislators down here and I think I laid the groundwork for that pretty well, in both the House and the Senate. In a sense, we're just kind of laying the groundwork for how this, my office, is going to run and address not only issues legislatively, but issues that my constituents bring forward. So I'm just kind of laying all that background work. So I still have a good amount that I need to do in the interim.
Young: I had one bill that I've been working on that's still alive in the Senate, so I'm hoping for that. It's getting the state in line with the Veterans Choice Act. The Veterans Choice Act has, I think, eight sections, and one section deals with higher ed — making sure that the state is offering state tuition to dependents of veterans who qualify for federal benefits. ...The non-tangible ones were just learning as much as possible, I know this is my first term, just as much as Sydnor's; talk to the right people; learn the process, the bill we've put in has been a learning experience, not just putting it in, but talking, working it the right way; and making a positive reputation for myself and the district too.
CT: Is there anything in particular that you didn't accomplish this session that you plan on picking up again next year?
Sydnor: You're a freshman, so you're trying to put an office together, you're trying to make certain that you're responsive — you're putting the systems in place so that you're responsive — to your constituents. You're trying to learn the legislative process. I mean, it's one thing what you learn in school — and I've been involved and active in a constituent kind of watching things going down here. It's totally different when you're the legislator. Now you really see how things are done. Just of building on all that stuff.
Young: I would say I had such an open mind that I didn't have a specific goal that wasn't achieved. I will say though, after being down here, that I have a lot, mainly on Appropriations and on the Health and Human Relations Subcommittee, a larger perspective on our mental health system in the state. Since the hearings on the budget were up, I've been doing my own research, since Spring Grove [Hospital Center] is in our district, digging a little bit more into what the projected need is, looking at what funding should be, or is compared to what the need is, and trying to be active in that conversation, not just with the state facilities, but also with the community health partners. It's becoming a bit of a passion for me.