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Lobbyist comes to Hagerstown before 'Capital' does

May 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- After a successful state legislative session, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce invited one of its Annapolis lobbyists to Hagerstown to explain some basics.

Lobbyist Josh M. White of the firm Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver said Wednesday that focus and persistence can help citizens and special interest groups bring about legislative change.

And they should pay attention. "What government does every day does affect your lives and your business," he said at a breakfast program at Duffy's on Potomac, a downtown restaurant.

White's stop in Hagerstown as part of the chamber's Eggs & Issues series came one day before the city is to become a state "Capital for a Day."

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Gov. Martin O'Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and about two dozen cabinet leaders are expected to spend most of today in and around Hagerstown.

Before he became a lobbyist in December, White was O'Malley's director of intergovernmental affairs. When O'Malley was elected, White was his statewide campaign manager.

O'Malley has had Capital for a Day both of his years as governor.

White was part of O'Malley's administration when a Washington County lobbying coalition talked to him last year about picking Hagerstown as a capital site, said Brien J. Poffenberger, the chamber's president.

The effort was on hold during last fall's special session, but resumed when White joined the lobbying firm that represents the coalition, Poffenberger said.

White told the breakfast audience that county leaders need to present a unified message while O'Malley is in town. By the end of the day, he said, "the governor should at least have a mental image of what we want."

During the 2008 Maryland General Assembly session, the coalition got much of what it wanted.

· Poffenberger said one priority was protecting the county's gaming interests, which went well. A bill to eliminate many forms of electronic gaming statewide was amended to exempt electronic tip-jar dispensing machines, which Washington County has.

· The threat of a large cut to the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown sparked a strong reaction in Washington County.

Poffenberger said the coalition quickly helped lead a broad protest over the proposed cut; more than 1,000 e-mails were sent to House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel.

"We went from zero to 60 in a weekend," Poffenberger said.

Almost all of the money was restored.

· Poffenberger said the coalition was pleased with a change concerning Base Realignment and Closure Art funding for affected communities. Rural counties became eligible, too.

"Our goal was to be at the table," Poffenberger said.

· The state approved a formula for funding an expansion of the downtown Hagerstown library, which includes a regional library. The next step is trying to get the money.

· A capital improvement project at Hagerstown Community College was given $1 million in state money to plan the project.

· Finally, the coalition gave the state an idea for reusing vacant buildings. No actions resulted, but the coalition learned more about the issue, Poffenberger said.

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