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Breakfast forum's focus is next legislative session

October 28, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - Health care, education and roads dominated Wednesday morning's Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum on the upcoming state legislative session.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance is the most important issue in the state now, "bar none."

Shank said economic development is pointless if there are no doctors to care for the community.

Some Washington County physicians recently threatened to stop performing nonemergency procedures because of rising insurance premiums. They are urging state legislators to pass laws to help them.

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Shank said a special session is possible in November.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, couldn't join other lawmakers at the chamber's annual breakfast forum, which was held at the Plaza Hotel. He was at a medical malpractice committee meeting.

At the forum, other members of Washington County's Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly took turns addressing the chamber's priorities.

At the top of the chamber's list was funding for public and higher education.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the University System of Maryland is asking for $1.5 million for the Hagerstown campus, which is scheduled to open in January. He said the construction is on time and on budget.

Munson disagreed with other Washington County legislators on the Thornton Commission plan for funding Maryland's public schools.

In 2002, Munson voted to raise the tax on cigarettes to fund the Thornton plan after then-Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, threatened to cut campus funding if he didn't. As a result, he said, $13 million in state money went toward the construction of the downtown college campus.

This year, the forum was moved from 7:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. to allow more discussion time, chamber President Brien Poffenberger said. About 70 business and community leaders attended.

For the first time, the forum was taped by Antietam Cable. It was shown Wednesday evening on Antietam Cable's channel 19 and was to be shown again today at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Of Washington County's eight legislators, only Donoghue and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, did not attend.

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