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Cas Taylor addresses conference on rural Maryland

May 30, 1998

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. on Friday told the Forvm for Rural Maryland that Maryland's rural legislators have gained clout during the 1990s.

Taylor's speech wrapped up the daylong conference at the Best Western Venice Inn. Organizers explained that the "v" in "forvm" is for "voice," as in the voice of rural Maryland.

Taylor, an Allegany County Democrat, said that voice was scattered when he arrived in the General Assembly more than 20 years ago.

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"We were too busy worrying about our parochial turf interests," he said. "That's insane now that we look back."

Over the last two decades, Taylor said the county delegations in Western Maryland have joined forces. Similar alignments have taken place on the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.

By merging those interests into one block, rural legislators have created a potent force, Taylor said. He said the 38 rural votes in the House of Delegates represent more votes than any single county delegation.

"That is a meaningful chunk of votes. Thirty-eight votes throughout the course of a 90-day session can decide a lot of issues," he said.

For example, Taylor said the Smart Growth bill was reworked to be more favorable to rural Maryland.

This year, Taylor said the rural block made important changes to a bill designed to fight the toxic microbe Pfiesteria and pushed through passage of a bill allowing Maryland to join a milk price-setting compact to help dairy farmers.

The next logical step is to reach out to rural interests in neighboring states, Taylor said.

He said he will call a summit meeting of house speakers of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware to discuss regional issues, such as transportation and higher education.

Taylor said leaders in rural parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia are natural allies.

Taylor also cited another issue facing rural Maryland: growth.

"How much growth do we want? If we go too far, we ain't going to be rural any longer," he said. "We can't lose sight of the fact that, depending on how you constitute economic growth, we can grow ourselves out of rural Maryland."

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