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Public gets the floor as legislative session nears

November 30, 1999|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Peter Vorac urged action on a land-easement proposal.

Pete Callas pressed for a highway sign.

Jason Partlow said correctional officers need the state's help.

Of the approximately 60 people who attended Saturday's public meeting on the coming state legislative session, more than one-third spoke their minds.

The public comment meeting has been a tradition at South Hagerstown High School for at least 13 years, said Republican Del. Christopher B. Shank, the chairman of Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

The meeting is held shortly before lawmakers representing the county head to Annapolis for their three-month legislative session. The 2007 session begins Wednesday.

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Joining Shank at the head table were Del. John P. Donoghue, the lone Democrat in the county's delegation, and four other Republicans ? Sen. Donald F. Munson, Del. Robert A. McKee, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. and Sen.-elect George C. Edwards, the newest member of Washington County's delegation and longtime delegate from Garrett County.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. and Sen. Alex X. Mooney did not attend.

State Division of Correction employees continued their own recent tradition of speaking up at the pre-session meeting. About 15 correction employees and spouses were there.

Larry D. Kump, the president of the Maryland Classified Employees Association's Public Safety Non-Custody Employees Chapter, gave the delegation a lengthy written list of possible reforms.

The list includes returning the minimum age for correctional officers from 18 to 21, improving the ratio of correctional officers to inmates and stop forcing prisoners to wear uniforms, which, he wrote, makes it more difficult to identify an inmate in a large group.

Partlow, a Division of Correction employee, said prison staffing is a concern. The work force is getting younger, and, therefore, less experienced.

"We're not even getting enough people to fill the vacancies," he said.

Vorac, of the Mid-Maryland Land Trust Association, talked about a stalled land-easement transaction.

The Washington County Sportsman's Club is trying to put 530 acres in the north end of the county, near Blairs Valley Road, into an easement, preventing it from being developed.

Vorac said the state Department of Natural Resources offered to pay for the easement, but there's been no progress in 18 months.

Alfred Lane of the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County asked for help buying sport utility vehicles to form a motor pool for area veterans' organizations.

James Devine urged the state to use more solar energy.

Edwina Mesiba promoted Advocates for Children and Youth, a social service agency in Baltimore.

Russell Fisher suggested not taxing retirees, to keep people from moving away.

Callas, a former delegate, lobbied for an Interstate 70 sign for Washington County's Agricultural Education Center and Rural Heritage Museum on Sharpsburg Pike. He said the idea has been rejected every year, but he's trying again.

Lawmakers said they appreciated the chance to hear residents' thoughts.

"This is real democracy in action," Munson said.

"Democracy is a shared responsibility between your elected members and the public," Shank said.

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