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Hey, let's hire some lobbyists to do county delegates' jobs

October 19, 2000

Hey, let's hire some lobbyists to do county delegates' jobs



I see where County Commissioners in Western Maryland got together recently to discuss the need for a lobbyist in the General Assembly to look out for the interests of us out here in the hinterlands.

The theory goes that jurisdictions such as Montgomery County get more than their share of the state's legislative blessings because, in part, they hire lobbyists to fight for their priorities in Annapolis.

That led some commissioners from Garrett County to suggest that Western Maryland might want to band together and do the same.

Washington County Commissioners demurred, however, saying that anytime there's an issue "near and dear" to their hearts they make the trip to Annapolis themselves.

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With great results, I can't help but notice.

It's like George Carlin said about jazz: "And you know the great jazz bands are all coming back; there ain't no work for them, but they are coming back."

Traveling to Annapolis and sitting like a deer staring at the headlights of a legislative committee hearing isn't exactly the most effective way to get results.

I doubt it would hurt anything if the county took a little money out of its consultant fund or its union-busting-lawyer fund and put it into a lobbyist fund. It's all about the same, really.

But I do tend to agree with our County Commissioners, if for a different reason.

It sticks in my craw that we would have to go out and hire somebody to stand up for us in the General Assembly. I mean what do we have lawmakers for?

(Pregnant pause).

OK, let me put it another way. Assuming we had a delegation whose antics so strongly resembled the Shriners who drive the little cars in loop-de-loops in the Mummers' Parade, wouldn't you think it would be their job to get stuff done for us. Or has the job description changed?

In defense of the delegation, though, it is sort of hard to know what to fight for when you have a county that changes its mind more often than a Long Beach society woman.

We want the campus out of town. We want the campus in town. We want to build a new stadium. We want to renovate the old stadium. We want a law to regulate cats. We don't want a law to regulate cats.

Who are we going to hire as a lobbyist, Sybil?

We can't even get the county and the delegation on the same page, half the time. Every year, the County Commissioners ask the delegation to repeal something it did a year ago. This year they're asking the delegation to undo sewer-debt legislation it passed against the county's will last year.

Here's what's going to happen: The Washington County Commissioners are going to hire a lobbyist who will spend 90 percent of his time lobbying the Washington County delegation.

Then the School Board will hire its own lobbyist to fight for more money for education, while the county lobbyist fights for less money for education and the city weighs in with its lobbyist who will fight for more money for education, provided its spent on renovation of downtown slum buildings.

Won't that be a grand old time. They'll all be chasing each other around the tree like the tigers in Little Black Sambo, until they all turn to legislative butter.

The only solution I can see is to actually elect lobbyists to office.

Through a series of tax incentives and promises of immunity from further prosecution, perhaps we could entice Maryland superlobbyists such as Bruce Bereano or Gerry Evans to move into our district, then elect them to the House and Senate.

You cut out the middle man that way.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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