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Delegation prepares for session

December 04, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Change sweeping across the political landscape in Annapolis is having a ripple effect in the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

While many of the lawmakers' faces remain the same, members of the Republican-controlled delegation are inspired by what they perceive as a statewide power shift in their favor following the results of the Nov. 5 general election.

With someone of their own party in the Governor's Mansion for the first time in their political careers, local Republicans are exhibiting a new, take-charge attitude.

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"We've decided we're going to exert some leadership," said Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Traditionally, the city and county governments give their legislative "wish lists" to the delegation before their three-month legislative session that starts in January.

This year, McKee said the delegation might bring some proposals to the table when the groups meet Dec. 18.

"Instead of reacting to what is given to us, we may put forth some issues of our own," he said.

Even though Republicans remain vastly outnumbered in the legislature, McKee and other lawmakers feel more confident now that Maryland is no longer a one-party state.

"We just feel the game's changed and we have to step up to the plate," McKee said.

"Since the governor's a Republican now I see us taking a somewhat more activist role," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

The delegation's lone Democrat warned that the delegation might overstep its bounds.

"I think it's interference on our part if we try to force the county and city, who are elected on their own, to do things they don't want," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Donoghue said lawmakers were elected to deal with statewide issues and they should leave local decisions to locally elected politicians.

The delegation raised the ire of some Washington County Commissioners in 2000 when they took a request for a new minor league baseball stadium and turned it into a series of bills that reduced the water and sewer debt, raised the hotel-motel tax and changed the tip jar gaming law.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who largely authored the legislation, said the delegation should never be simply a rubber stamp.

Shank said the community expects lawmakers to address long-term issues such as growth and fire and rescue services.

City and county officials will still have input, along with people in the business community, they said.

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