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Live chat with Delegate Christopher Shank - transcript

April 18, 2006

Delegate Christopher Shank will be our Live Chat guest today starting at 1:00 pm and ending at 2:00 pm. Questions or comments can be submitted by clicking here before and during the chat. Or send an email to: onlinechat@herald-mail.com




Name: Daniel Moeller

Question: Why is the state government paying three public defenders to represent the accused killer of Officer Wroten?

Shank:

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee we deal with the death penalty every session, particularly bills that would repeal the death penalty. As a staunch supporter of the death penalty, I want to make absolutely certain that in cases such as Officer Wroten's murder, that the death penalty is carried out. I think the answer to your question deals with Supreme Court cases where the ACLU has intervened on behalf of defendants and the State is therefore required to mount the defense or the conviction be subject to an appeal. Accordingly, I think it's important that everything be done "by the book" so that the ultimate penalty can be carried out swiftly.

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Name: Daniel Moeller

Question: Maryland's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan, Version 5, was last revised in April 2002 and it is totally inadequate for a potential avian flu pandemic. When will the state government update this plan?

Shank: The Delegation recently met with our local health officer, Bill Christoffel, to discuss a variety of public health topics such as avian flu. As to the preparedness plan that you speak of, as I do not serve on a health committee I will have to check with the secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for a specific answer to your question and get back to you.




Name: Tim Rowland

Question: What's the status of Program Open Space, and farmland preservation in general in Washington County?

Shank: After the first two years of this term where we faced severe economic constraints to the state budget, we've now got some breathing room in the state budget thanks to a robust economy. So the governor was able to restore a large portion of the funding that was cut because of the recession. For Washington County Program Open Space increased by 200 percent in fiscal year 2007 from just under $1 million in fiscal year 2006 back up to $2.8 million in fiscal year 2007. Rural Legacy and the Maryland Agricultural Land Foundation programs also have been restored. Washington County has benefitted greatly from these programs in recent years and I'm confident that we will continue to purchase considerable easements in the future as a result of the governor restoring these programs. Finallly, the delegation at a local level included farm land preservation as one of the categories in the Growth Management Act that was passed last legislative session.




Moderator: This session was the most partisan in memory, with the success of many bills hinging on whether the sponsor was a Democrat or a Republican. Was this just an election-year fluke, or can we expect more of the same in 2007?

Shank: I definitely believe this was one of the most partisan in my 11 years of Annapolis experience. I think in large part because the Democratic leadership is so dedicated to displacing Bob Ehrlich as governor, they're willing to do almost anything to accomplish this objective. Case in point: The Baltimore City Schools debacle. The state superintendent of schools was attempting to instill some accountability in one of the worst school systems in the nation, where the math and reading scores for some high schools are in the single digits. However to protect Martin O'Malley, the mayor of Baltimore, the Democratic leadership prevented the takeover of 11 of the worst achieving schools. To me this was unconscionable.

A second example is the complete failure of the General Assembly to enact meaningful medical malpractice reform. Gov. Ehrlich once again proposed a comprehensive package of reforms, but they were swept under the rug to deny him a legislative victory.

In conclusion I feel that the partisanship has unfortunately reached a new height in Annapolis that will only be resolved by the 2006 elections. Some have never accepted Gov. Ehrlich's election in 2002. I believe that for the governor to overcome this gridlock, a new General Assembly dedicated to overcoming this bitter personal and partisan atmosphere is necessary.




Name: Tim Rowland

Question: Do beltway lawmakers understand the high-growth situation Washington County is in and are they likely to be sympathetic to our upcoming needs, or is it still hard to get their attention?

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