'Top 3' legislative issues

April 15, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY-With another Maryland General Assembly session over as of April 9, The Herald-Mail asked each member of Washington County's delegation to pick the top three county-related issues that came up.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington

·Local bond bills: Funding requests for Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, C&O Canal National Historical Park and the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts made it into the final state budget.

·Libraries: A statewide fund for library projects was sliced, but survived, Munson said.

·Washington County projects: A bill letting the county issue up to $80 million for capital projects passed.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington

·School construction funding: Washington County received $9 million for school construction projects in the fiscal 2008 budget, which Mooney considered a "high level."

·Roads: County residents who commute to Washington, D.C., will benefit from a highway connector project that's still alive, he said, but not from money going to the Metro transit system.


·Local bills: Almost all of them passed.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington

·Most of the county's local bills passed.

·A "good" amount of school construction money went to the county.

·The fiscal year 2008 budget doesn't address a future structural deficit, making tax increases likely, he said.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington

·Excise tax: A bill passed to let Washington County remove the cap on its excise tax on new residential construction for one year. McKee said he supports changing the flat fee to one based on square footage.

·No task force: A proposed task force on Maryland gambling passed in the House, but died in a Senate committee. Local lawmakers feared, based on past experience, the task force might try to reach for a portion of the county's tip-jar revenue.

·Central booking: The final state budget included $1.4 million for a central booking facility for police in Washington County.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany

·Public safety: Myers gave Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley an A+ for putting 155 new state correctional officers in the budget, closing the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup and moving ahead on a new housing unit at Maryland Correctional Training Center in Washington County.

·A statewide smoking ban in restaurants, bars and clubs: It "will have more of an effect than people realize," said Myers, who voted against it.

·Health care: The General Assembly's attempt to pass a health-care package failed. Myers opposed the idea of raising the per-pack tax on cigarettes by $1 to fund it.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington

·State budget: A Republican plan to cut next year's spending increase was rejected, so a tax battle is imminent for fiscal year 2009, Shank said. "My constituents are very clear" about a tax hike, he said. "They don't want it."

·Public safety: Shank sponsored the House version of this year's "Jessica's Law," eliminating possible parole for certain sex crimes when children are victims. A few other bills cracking down on sex offenders also passed.

·Philosophical trend: A battle over in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants - it didn't pass - was a "flash point" in a tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives, said Shank, who opposed the measure. Other bills that passed, such as expanding parole eligibility for drug dealers and changing the electoral college process, indicate a "left-leaning tilt" in Maryland, he said.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington

·State budget: Not trying to fix a structural deficit estimated to be $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2009 was the session's biggest issue, Weldon said. Republicans criticized O'Malley for using nearly $1 billion from the state's rainy-day fund to close a gap in the fiscal 2008 budget.

·Washington County Hospital: Weldon strongly opposed a bill aimed at five people appealing, in court, zoning variances for a new hospital. The bill died in committee. Now, "we have an obligation as a delegation" to help the hospital project, he said.

·School board election process: Weldon supported another bill that failed - a proposed referendum on choosing the Washington County school board. Board members are elected at-large now; a task force would consider district representation instead. "People in South Mountain haven't been sufficiently represented," he said.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, could not be reached for this story.

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