Plenty of issues awaiting start of legislature

December 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Local representatives in the Maryland General Assembly will face a variety of potentially contentious issues when the legislature convenes next month - including school funding, Pfiesteria and new minor league baseball stadium for the Hagerstown Suns.

The stadium effort received a boost Friday when House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor, D-Allegany, told members of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce he supports state funding for a new stadium.

"If it's done right, I think it adds to our quality of life and it adds to our economy," Taylor said at a legislative forum hosted by the chamber.


But Taylor said local officials need to come up with a firm plan soon if the state money is to be forthcoming during the 90-day sesson that starts Jan. 14.

"I think the will is there on our part to help out, but your time frame is very short," he said.

Other issues addressed at the forum included:

- Education. Taylor wants to see the state spend $60 million from its budget surplus on primary and secondary education. Another $60 million from the surplus would be spent on school construction.

- Taxes. Taylor restated his position that $68 million from the budget surplus should be sent back to taxpayers in the form of a one-year state property tax cut, but backed away from proposals that the income tax be cut further.

"That's more permanent and it gets us into deeper trouble down the road," he said.

- Gambling. The county delegation is expected to file legislation to amend the county's tip jar law that requires gaming proceeds go to charity. The biggest proposed change would lift the law's 1999 expiration date.

- Drinking and driving. Legislators expect there will be a bid to lower the blood-alcohol rate for driving while intoxicated from .10 to .08.

- Regulatory relief. Sen John W. Derr, R-Frederick/Washington, said he supports a move to ease state regulations on businesses so they are no more restrictive than federal statutes.

- Pfiesteria. Taylor said the disease that led to fish kills on the Chesapeake Bay last summer might not seem like much of an issue for local people, but it will be if it leads to tighter controls on fertilizer runoff.

"Maybe you think it isn't important, but it is definitely important to the farmers across the state," he said.

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