General Assembly, business leaders discuss upcoming session

December 09, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

HALFWAY - Members of the Washington County delegation to the General Assembly briefed local business leaders Wednesday morning on issues they will face in the upcoming legislative session - from bond requests to controversial issues.

Speaking at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Plaza Hotel, delegation Chairman Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington, said lawmakers have received bond requests totaling nearly $1.7 million from seven groups.

"Doubtful that we would be able to get that amount," said McKee, who said Gov. Parris Glendening offered $19 million in bond projects for the entire state last year.

The delegation also plans to seek money from the tobacco settlement to pay for school nurses and fight for a change in the law that requires Washington County to reimburse the state for half of the cost of fighting fires on state land within the county, McKee said.


He and other lawmakers hailed the decision to build a University of Maryland campus in the county.

"I know that there is still some controversy on that. I know some of you were less than happy about the site," Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, said. "But I have to tell you what a wonderful victory this is for Washington County."

McKee said the delegation will not take up the issue of state funding for a minor league baseball stadium unless the Washington County Commissioners endorse the project.

McKee also said the delegation will formally request help from U.S. Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, both D-Md., on reimbursement for expansion of the county's sewer system.

Other lawmakers outlined their priorities.

* Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, said he would work toward elimination of the state inheritance tax. He co-sponsored a bill last year that reduced the tax.

Munson warned against imprudently spending the state's budget surplus on open-ended commitments that could cost the state in a downturn.

* Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said he spends most of his energy in Annapolis playing defense.

He cited a bill sponsored in the last session that would have required electric companies to charge customers "based on ability to pay."

"That's Marxism. That's pure and simple," he said. "This is what they do in Communist countries, ladies and gentlemen."

* Del. Louise Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, talked of her efforts to make South Mountain Battlefield a state park. It would become the state's first Civil War battlefield park,

* Del. Joseph Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, said his Ways and Means Committee toured two horse-racing tracks this summer - a successful one in Delaware that has slot machines, and a struggling one on the Eastern Shore where slots are not allowed.

Despite the disparity, Bartlett said he opposes organized gambling in the state.

* Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, talked about efforts to preserve a healthy environment for agriculture and to stave off potentially costly regulations of the financial services industry.

Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, was absent because his committee is on a retreat.

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