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Most Washington County bills move through without snags as General Assembly wraps up session

April 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- As the Maryland General Assembly completed its business Monday -- the legislative session's last day -- there was little suspense attached to Washington County bills.

One of the more significant Washington County delegation bills, a new excise-tax structure, was approved Friday by the Senate, more than a week after the House passed it.

Almost all of the other delegation bills moved through both chambers without snags, said Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., the delegation chairman.

Another significant Washington County issue -- how much money Hagerstown's university campus would get next year -- was resolved Friday, after several days of negotiations.

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In a morning session Monday, the House approved a fiscal year 2009 capital budget that cuts money from a state prison project in Washington County.

The budget had included $12.6 million toward a new 192-cell housing unit at Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown.

However, a committee of delegates and senators trimmed $2.5 million, reducing the amount to $10.1 million.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who was on the committee, said money that was cut is expected to be in the next budget. The project can proceed, he said.

The Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services previously estimated the housing unit cost at $39 million.

Last year, the General Assembly approved about $25 million.

Department spokesman Mark Vernarelli wrote in an e-mail, "Apparently, the contractors' original bids did not comply with State procurement regulations on their forms. Thus, they have been given a second chance to bid. Their deadline is April 22 to submit those bids. Those bids will determine whether the (downwardly) revised funding will be sufficient."

The Washington County excise tax bill passed the Senate 44-2 on Friday.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, voted no.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, voted in favor.

The House passed the bill 126-11 last month.

Other delegation bills that cleared both chambers by the end of last week were:

  • The county commissioners, instead of the governor, will fill Washington County school board vacancies.

  • The county commissioners can require that sidewalks along public streets be maintained, except in incorporated municipalities. The county also may adopt regulations for removing snow and ice from sidewalks.

  • Certain record-keeping and filing duties of the county clerk will be altered.

  • The county's liquor board must get an annual audit and give copies to the delegation.

  • The minimum for county contracts to be put out to bid will rise from $25,000 to $50,000.

  • The county will set regulations for examining and licensing electricians.

  • Special permits can be required for certain large events.

    On Monday, the Senate passed a bill to let sidewalk cafés serve alcohol in Hagerstown and catering businesses serve alcohol off-site. The House previously approved it.

    Two delegation bills never made it out of committee.

    One would have let a state agency intercept income-tax refunds of former tenants who owe money to housing authorities in Washington County.

    The other would have added Washington County to a list of those that meet with municipalities to discuss tax money returned to the municipalities for services they provide.

    A bill addressing roads, highways, surveys and deeds in Washington County was approved by a House committee -- with an amendment connected to a Funkstown bridge project -- but was sent back to committee and killed Monday.

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