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DM 10oct00 - lobbyist

October 13, 2000

Don't reject lobby plan without more research



Does Western Maryland need its own lobbyist in Annapolis? Officials of the western counties who gathered this past weekend for a meeting in Hagerstown disagreed. We feel the idea deserves additional discussion.

Local officials who objected to the idea said that when an issue is important, they don't hesitate to travel to Annapolis to do their own lobbying. Others noted that even though metropolitan areas like Montgomery County have many representatives in the General Assembly, they still have lobbyists.

Here's a thought: Instead of wondering what those counties get from their lobbyists, why not ask them? Douglas Duncan, the Montgomery County executive who recently visited Hagerstown for a meeting of the state's Information Technology Board, has already pledged to direct companies whose needs his area can't fulfill to Western Maryland. Why wouldn't he share his opinions on the value of lobbyists as well?

We suspect that his answer would be an explanation of the differences between the duties of a legislator and a lobbyist, about how while one has committee and delegation meetings he or she must attend, lobbyists can target the meetings and receptions where they can most effectively get their points across.

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One point in favor of giving Western Maryland some additional expertise in Annapolis is that in terms of numbers, this region doesn't have the clout that metro-area counties do. And yet there are local needs - additional educational funding, for example - that must to be addressed. If, that is, there's any money left when Baltimore and the other high-population areas finish slicing up the pie.

As a political observer once said, "Politics ain't beanbag." It's rough stuff, and the same big-city lawmakers who want the lion's share of state funds don't hesitate to oppose something like dairy price supports because saving family farms in rural areas would cost their constituents a few cents per gallon of milk.

The question local officials need to ask include: Has the current system worked up to now, and if not, would adding a lobbyist make things better, or just cost more money?

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