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Constituents lobby lawmakers ahead of Maryland General Assembly session

January 05, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? They wanted common sense in emissions standards, a ban on cell phone gabbing while driving and an expanded definition of first-degree murder.

They came to South Hagerstown High School on Saturday to lobby their state representatives about issues they considered important.

Each year, the public gets that chance just before Washington County's state lawmakers head to Annapolis for a 90-day session of the General Assembly.

The session starts Wednesday.

Hearing constituents' concerns is part of the legislative process, said Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington.

More than 50 people showed up Saturday; close to half of them spoke.

Several comments came from state employees, especially those who have worked at the prison complex south of Hagerstown.

Maryland Classified Employees Association representative Larry D. Kump, a case management specialist at Roxbury Correctional Institution, said people who work in Washington County and live in Allegany and Garrett counties should get a chance to transfer to jobs closer to home.

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Edwards said that probably will happen, although the state didn't want to transfer everyone at the same time.

Mandatory overtime for correctional officers might make them lax, leading to possible problems on the job, said Steve Berger, a retired Maryland Correctional Training Center officer who now represents the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Berger also warned the delegation about worsening fears at the Potomac Center in Hagerstown, a state facility for mentally retarded people.

Because of problems at another state facility in Baltimore County, clients who have been in court on various criminal charges have been diverted to the Potomac Center.

Sam Tracy, who used to work at the Potomac Center, said more of those clients, known as "forensics," are expected in Hagerstown.

Members of the local chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association also spoke Saturday. Some lobbied for a more equal tax-exemption system for senior citizens and a credit for long-term care premiums.

Other concerns ran the gamut.

Relatives of Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon said they're pushing for a change to link child-abuse deaths to first-degree murder charges. The death of 4-month-old Justice led to the conviction and 30-year prison sentence of Floyd Edward Bingaman III.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he was interested in helping.

Jeff Bishop of Hagerstown said collectible cars that are hardly driven should be eligible for waivers from state emission standards.

Ed Enamait of Falling Waters, W.Va., asked if Maryland could ban people from driving and talking on a cell phone at the same time.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, replied that new hands-free technology, such as Bluetooth earpiece phones, makes it safer to talk while driving.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, encouraged people to call and write their representatives whenever they have concerns.




Who was there

Half of the eight-member Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly attended Saturday's public forum.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, the delegation chairman, led the meeting.

He was joined by Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington; Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington; and Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington.

During phone interviews last week, three other delegation members explained why they wouldn't be there.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said he was asked by House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to go to Atlanta this weekend for a symposium on taxes.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said he had an appointment Saturday to help his son get into a school.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington, was planning to be at the forum as late as Friday night, but said one thing might take precedence ? the birth of his grandson, who was a few days overdue.

If the call came, Weldon said, he was going to Tennessee to be with his family.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, did not return phone messages left at his home and on his cell phone on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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