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Quad State conference coming to town

September 22, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Curbing particular kinds of crime and finding ways to improve the Interstate 81 corridor will be the main topics of discussion among legislators gathering Friday in Hagerstown for the 18th annual Quad State Legislative Conference.

Lawmakers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia are scheduled to be on hand for the daylong event, held this year at Four Points Sheraton.

Morning sessions will include discussions aimed at combating child sexual abuse and gang activity, according to Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who is chairing this year's conference. Panelists will include both law enforcement and government representatives from the states.

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While Shank has said he plans to make tightening up Maryland's methods of tracking sex offenders a priority in the 2006 legislative session, Friday's discussions will look more at policy than specific legislation.

"We'll see what other states are doing," Shank said.

The keynote speaker will be Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Afternoon topics will include reports on regional economic development and tourism efforts, and a presentation Shank said he hopes will lead to formation of an advocacy panel for improvements along I-81.

"My main priority is to establish a working relationship among transportation officials between the four states," Shank said. Working cooperatively to improve I-81 "would help secure federal dollars" for road construction projects, he said.

To that end, lawmakers will hear from representatives of a coalition that has been established for Interstate 95, he said.

Though the lawmakers have been networking for 18 years, Shank conceded that they haven't always gotten the result they've hoped for. For example, he said, while tourism is a perennial topic, "there's been some frustration that more inter-state cooperation hasn't occurred.

"We only get together one time a year; there's no independent staff, so often follow-through becomes an issue."

An exception, however, is that economic development directors from the four states meet on a quarterly basis, he said. They're asking for support for an economic analysis of the entire region, which would include a needs assessment of the work force, education and infrastructure.

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