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Coalition greets lawmakers

February 22, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Wednesday was full of meeting, greeting and lobbying in Annapolis for a Washington County coalition of local governments and business groups.

After talking to the county's state lawmakers about legislative priorities, the coalition met with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., House Speaker Michael E. Busch and other legislators in key positions.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Community Legislative Coalition also hosted a midday reception for the entire General Assembly.

The first 125 sandwiches ran out quickly, and another 100 or so were brought in, said Brien J. Poffenberger, the president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Washington County, the City of Hagerstown, the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation and the Greater Hagerstown Committee also are in the coalition, which had about 20 people to Annapolis.

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"We have a united front. I've heard that from delegates, from senators ...," said Bradley Pingrey, the chairman of the chamber's board. "They know that we're really representing Washington County as a whole and we're not segmented."

The day's meetings were arranged by lobbyist Michael V. Johansen, whom the coalition is paying almost $20,000 for the session.

Johansen said meetings like these also help legislators, who develop a broad, statewide sense of opinions and can be advocates when Washington County delegation members aren't present.

In a morning meeting with the county delegation, coalition members reiterated their four main interests this session: money for a central booking facility, a downtown library expansion, a state agriculture corporation and a change in the state's prisoner release policy.

They added a fifth from last year: protecting local tip jar operations from changes in state oversight. Poffenberger said a pending gaming regulation bill could be a concern.

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