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Shank says delegation got local bills too late

March 04, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - As the Maryland General Assembly enters the second half of this year's legislative session, it's nearly crunch time for getting local bills approved by both houses.

Complicating the matter for the most substantive local bill, the Washington County Growth Management Act of 2005, is the fact that local officials keep wanting to change it.

The bill would revise the county's excise tax on new development.

"There are about half a million requests for amendments to the excise tax bill," said Washington County Delegation Chairman Christopher B. Shank.

"This just reaffirms what I said in November, that the (Washington County) commissioners have got to get these things to us sooner."

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The problem, Shank said, is that county officials approached the delegation with a concept rather than specifics, "and didn't like the way we put it together."

Various parts of the bill, including how the fees collected within municipalities would be distributed, have generated ongoing discussion in Hagerstown while the bill was being processed in Annapolis.

Just this week, the Hagerstown City Council registered concerns over technical aspects of the bill.

Shank said the delegation's role is to provide enabling legislation so that the county can change its ordinance - and those technical aspects won't be worked out in the bill. The proper place for that, he said, will be in the county ordinance that follows.

But because of the substantial changes requested, more meetings may be required before the bill goes to hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 16, Shank said, adding that all these issues should have been worked out in Hagerstown months before the delegation reported to Annapolis in January.

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