Frederick-based celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio came to Annapolis on Monday to testify for a school breakfast program, but members of the House Appropriations Committee wanted more than just his opinion.
“The subcommittee has been known to be shameless in the past in asking our panelists for things, so we understand you run a very successful restaurant and we hope that if we ever come in for a reservation, you’re gonna take care of us,” chairman John Bohanan said.
Voltaggio was quick to respond that he’d follow through, if that would in any way help the legislation.
Del. Melony Griffith wondered aloud whether a site visit was in order before a vote.
She and Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale — presumably while also paying close attention to the committee’s proceedings — were looking at Volt’s website and ogling offerings like mahi mahi over black forbidden rice with maroon carrots.
Stocksdale’s last question to the panel: “Where in Frederick is your restaurant?”
— Danielle E. Gaines
It’s hard out there
Nancy Jacobs welcomed several members of the Maryland Federation of Republican Women on Tuesday to the Senate, where they were greeted with warm applause ... at first.
“I got attacked by several of them in the elevator,” joked Mike Miller.
Jacobs, not missing a beat, replied that she didn’t see any bruises or blood.
Miller replied that he was glad to have the visitors in attendance, adding that he was happy to be out of the elevator, too.
— Daniel Leaderman
Virus does what ICC couldn’t
In the first few months after the controversial Intercounty Connector opened, the road’s impingement on the habitat of fauna has not proved to be the most dangerous threat to Eastern box turtles. Instead, it’s a virus that state environmental officials hope to get funding to combat.
The Eastern Box Turtle Initiative, part of the ICC project’s environmental program, began prior to construction in fall 2007.
Through coordination with the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State Highway Administration agreed to take steps to avoid and minimize impacts to box turtles during the ICC’s construction.
Box turtles were identified early on as prevalent in this area, particularly where the ICC is located, said ICC spokesman Ray Feldmann.
“It was part of an overall commitment we made to do everything possible to minimize the road’s impact on the wildlife in the area," he said.
The Eastern box turtle lives in woodland habitats throughout Maryland. It is about 4½ to 6 inches long, and has a high domed shell of brown or black, with yellow or orange markings.
The SHA relocated about 900 box turtles from the construction area and equipped about 100 of them with transponders that allow data on their behavior to be collected and analyzed.
Richard Seigel, a Towson University biology professor, led a four-year study funded by the SHA that addressed the effectiveness of long-distance and short-distance relocations on relocated turtles and resident populations.
Of those tracked turtles, about one-quarter have died from the ranavirus, which appears to be unrelated to the ICC construction, Siegel said.
“The virus has turned out to be a very unusual component of the program,” he said. “We were looking for potential health concerns and never expected to see anything of this magnitude.”
Officials are unsure how it is transmitted, as amphibians, including tadpoles and salamanders, also are dying from it. If the virus continues to spread, it could have a devastating impact on the food chain.
“It could be something in the water or an insect; we just don’t know,” Seigel said. “There are groups looking into that.”
First detected in Maryland in 2005, the virus has been confirmed in four counties, is suspected in four others, and has turned up in box turtles throughout the Eastern half of the U.S., Smith said.
“We are seeing more and more of it and are looking to see if there are long-term ramifications,” he said. “If it becomes widespread, it becomes a larger concern.”
— Terri Hogan
Quick changeIt wasn’t the Oscars, but Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant could have given Anne Hathaway a run for her money during Thursday’s session.
Tarrant looked dapper in a red blazer at the start of the session, when he presented a resolution to his brothers in Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
After calmly posing for a photo at the dais, Tarrant darted back to his seat, hit the button to activate his microphone, dipped into the delegates’ lobby and re-emerged seconds later in a black pinstripe jacket to introduce Nobel Prize winner Adam Riess.
Tarrant was so quick and cool about the change, his colleagues hardly batted an eye.
Impressive.— Danielle E. Gaines
Observations from the gallery
As Sen. David R. Brinkley continued his mini-filibuster of the same-sex marriage bill Thursday evening on the Senate floor, delegates were talking.
Well, tweeting, that is.
With the hashtag #BetterBrinkleyFilabusters, Del. Keiffer Mitchell offered these suggestions: cookbooks, old Seinfeld scripts, Luther Vandross lyrics.
Del. Heather Mizeur observed “playing with iPhones, picking noses, digging lunch out of teeth — things Senators are doing to stay awake on the floor right now.”
Brinkley had no problem continuing the soliloquy on his own. When Prez Mike Miller tried to cut him off at the 20-minute mark, Brinkley retorted, “I haven’t even given you the footnotes yet.”
— Danielle E. Gaines