Local lawmakers review legislative session

May 11, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER


Members of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce got a glimpse of politics from a business point of view Wednesday as three local lawmakers gave them a summary of the recently completed Maryland General Assembly session.

Sen. Donald F. Munson and Delegates Robert A. McKee and Christopher B. Shank, all Washington County Republicans, responded to questions from the Chamber's government affairs committee during its annual post-legislative forum at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

This year, the Chamber had a vested interest.

The Chamber had partnered with three other entities to hire lobbyist Mike Johansen to press for money for improvements to the Edgewood Drive-Dual Highway intersection, a homeland security grant for the county's communication system, money to upgrade local water and sewer plants, and to protect the county's charitable gaming activities from encroachment by the state. They wanted to know whether their investment paid off.


"The money's well-spent and well-earned," McKee assured them. He noted that a bill offered by Del. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, to have the state regulate gaming activities had died in the House Ways and Means Committee, on which both served. Now, with new election results pending this fall, Washington County's gaming activities "are probably safe for another year and a half before the legislature wants to mess with that again," he said.

"I don't think your lobbyist hit any home runs this year, but I don't think even Babe Ruth hit a home run first time out," Munson said. But he added that progress was made on all of the Chamber's issues, "and we still have tip jars."

All three agreed that this year's session had been more partisan than previous election-year sessions. Shank said his greatest disappointment was that comprehensive legislation to further monitor sexual offenders failed on the last day of the session because, he said, it fell victim to partisanship after Del. Anthony Brown, D-Prince George's and a candidate for lieutenant governor, "tried to politicize it."

Shank also said any significant reform to the state's medical malpractice laws, a major issue among Washington County physicians, would require "political change," particularly in the Senate. He blamed Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh for sidelining the malpractice issue.

Budgetwise, Munson said the session was a "10" for Washington County, with double-digit increases in state funding to the county - including funding for all of the county's bond bills.

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