Md. lawmakers plan to meet with local residents Saturday

January 04, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

Citizens are invited to speak to Washington County lawmakers Saturday about issues facing the Maryland General Assembly in the upcoming legislative session.

The assembly meets in Annapolis for 90 days, beginning Jan. 14.

Local lawmakers will meet Saturday in the auditorium of South Hagerstown High School from 10 a.m. to noon.

Their biggest priority, local lawmakers said, will be securing $1.8 million in the budget to operate the new University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

The center is under construction in the former Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street downtown.

Lawmakers will have to fight for the money in another tight budget year. For the fiscal year that starts July 1, state budget analysts are projecting an $800 million shortfall, said Henry Fawell, spokesman for Gov. Robert Ehrlich.


As they were last year, lawmakers will be under pressure to legalize slot machines or raise taxes to close the gap.

Delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he would like to hear opinions about slots and other issues facing the legislature this year.

Shank's House Judiciary Committee alone is expected to tackle issues such as tort reform, gay marriage and gun control.

Often, the people who come to the public hearing are those most affected by the state budget, Shank said.

But people are free to talk about anything they feel is important.

"We're always interested in hearing their opinions on other subjects," he said.

The Washington County Commissioners have asked the Delegation to pursue legislation that would:

  • Give commissioners the authority to assess a flat tax of $10 on each improved real estate account in the county to raise money for agricultural land preservation.

    At the same time, the commissioners want to eliminate a requirement that $400,000 of transfer tax revenues go toward farmland preservation.

  • Add a second deputy state's attorney position for the county, and eliminate one of the current assistant positions.

  • Give commissioners the authority to borrow $50 million over the next four years for various capital improvement projects.

  • Change the county's gaming law to prevent people with outstanding fines or taxes from getting a tip jar license.

  • Increase the legal life of a school bus to 15 years from 12, as long as proper maintenance and safety precautions are taken.

Washington County is represented in the legislature by three senators and five delegates: Sen. Donald F. Munson, Sen. Alex X. Mooney, Sen. John J. Hafer, Del. John P. Donoghue, Del. Robert A. McKee, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., Del. Christopher B. Shank and Del. Richard Weldon.

Donoghue is a Democrat and the rest are Republicans.

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