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Governor's agenda praised

January 17, 2001

Governor's agenda praised



By LAURA ERNDE/ Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - Most Washington County lawmakers applauded Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's goals for promoting higher education and protecting open space.

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But some were skeptical, especially about the third goal in the governor's State of the State speech, legislation aimed at ending discrimination against minorities and gays.

"Two out of three isn't bad," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he was glad to hear Glendening emphasize the link between higher education and economic development.

Likewise, Glendening's goal to preserve open space is "music to my ears," Shank said.

"He's not just paying lip service to it, he's really making it a priority," he said.

Glendening broadly outlined three proposed new Smart Growth programs to revitalize neighborhoods, build urban parks and playgrounds and protect environmentally sensitive lands.

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The governor used the Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown as an example of how one redevelopment project can restore a sense of community and prompt neighboring property owners to follow suit.

"It was good to have the Maryland Theatre mentioned because the keystone to growth in downtown Hagerstown has and will continue to be the Maryland Theatre," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

When Munson was a young delegate more than 20 years ago, he supported a bill to get state money to fix up the theater, which had been damaged by a fire.

Local lawmakers said they hope the governor's priorities will translate into money for Washington County projects such as a national Civil War Museum and open space around the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center. The details of state construction projects will be announced next week.

"If today's a preview, maybe we'll have some good news. The central downtown area can benefit from his focus on higher education and Smart Growth," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Munson was less optimistic.

"I didn't see a whole lot for Western Maryland, but I'll be happy to look at what's under the surface," Munson said.

Republicans questioned how the state would be able to afford the governor's proposed $21.3 billion budget.

"He's got a very ambitious agenda. We'll see how much we can afford," McKee said.

Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden, R-Howard/Prince George's, said Glendening's budget ignores a slowing national economy.

"It's a course that must inevitably lead to major program cutbacks, large tax increases or both," he said.

On the subject of Glendening's proposed legislation, bills aimed at ending discrimination against minorities and gays drew the most opposition from local lawmakers.

Shank said he can't support proposed gay rights legislation, which passed the House of Delegates two years ago but died for lack of a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

He said he hadn't made up his mind on two of Glendening's other goals: Extending collective bargaining to university employees and granting 25 percent of state contracts to minority businesses.

"I don't think anyone expects us to be in total support of the governor's agenda," Shank said.

Glendening vowed to fight once again for a gay rights bill, although he admits it will be a difficult battle.

"We dealt with that one two years ago. There's nothing more to do with that one," said Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, whose committee bottled up the gay rights bill and could do so again this year.

Mooney said other than the governor's education priorities, there was little in Glendening's speech with which he agreed.

Glendening's proposal to create a new state secretary's position for Smart Growth won't be good for Washington County, he said.

"We certainly don't need an entire new state bureaucracy intervening, disrupting growth policies," he said.

Glendening's goal for a free college education for Marylanders sounds noble but could be costly and could undermine students' appreciation for their education, he said.

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