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Lawmakers have different definitions for session's success

April 17, 2010|By ERIN JULIUS
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o How bills of local interest fared this session

ANNAPOLIS -- With the 2010 Maryland General Assembly session completed, local lawmakers believe their time in Annapolis was successful, but their definitions of success vary.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, saw eight of the 10 bills he filed pass. That was the best passing rate among the eight members of the Washington County delegation.

But other legislators gauge their success differently.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, has never believed that the quantity of bills passed defines a legislator's effectiveness.

"People can pass special-interest bills or bills that do absolutely nothing," he said.

The Washington County delegation had at least two big successes with the passage of a GPS tracking program for domestic violence offenders and a change that requires the Washington County Commissioners to determine the salaries of county employees, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said Friday.

The commissioners won't be responsible for setting their own salaries or, because of an amendment to the bill, the sheriff's salary.

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Most of the local delegation's bills passed unanimously out of other legislators' courtesy to local initiatives. Only three of the 13 bills filed by the delegation as a whole didn't pass.

"If we show the delegation supports this, (the bill is) going to pass," Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, said Friday.

If a bill would benefit the entire county, it should be filed as a delegation bill, Serafini said. The local lawmakers vote on such bills in their delegation meetings before filing them as a delegation.

Serafini, who served his second session after being appointed to the General Assembly in 2008, filed six bills, none of which passed.

He thought a bill that would have criminalized the destruction of foreclosed property would go through, he said.

But an amendment added by the House Judiciary Committee broadened the language such that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee didn't like the bill, Serafini said.

Two of Serafini's other bills dealt with the state pension plan -- one requiring more transparency and another proposing a constitutional amendment making the legislative plan equal to that of state employees.

"That's what disappointed me most," Serafini said Friday. "A lot of people think it's OK that legislators get a better pension plan."

Serafini believes resistance to anything related to pensions came about because it's an election year, and also because it takes time for people to understand the complicated issue, he said.

Del. Charles A. Jenkins, R-Frederick/Washington, is the delegation's newest member, having been appointed on the first day of the 2010 session.

"It was a significant first session," Jenkins said Friday.

The one bill he sponsored did not pass, but he helped kill a recycling bill that would have moved away from single-stream recycling, which Frederick County and other jurisdictions have made significant investments in, Jenkins said.

Jenkins served on the Health and Government Operations Committee, but should he return next year, might look to move to the Appropriations Committee.

"I've always enjoyed budget," he said. "I think it's important to have somebody from our neck of the woods represent us there."

The delegation was effective as a group this year, he said.

Myers, the delegation chairman, was surprised by the support for the delegation's GPS tracking initiative. Similar bills previously had been introduced by Shank.

Instead of opposing a GPS tracking program in Washington County --as he had expected them to, Myers said --lawmakers from Prince George's County created and passed a bill starting a similar program in their jurisdiction.

Personally, Myers said he had a good legislative year.

One bill he filed that passed exempts disabled veterans and former prisoners of war from paying for fishing licenses and trout stamps.

"Although it's very little to give, we owe (them) this," Myers said.

Another of his bills that passed will require licensed electricians, plumbers, gas fitters and HVAC-R contractors to display only their state or county license number on their vehicles.

That will make it easier for consumers to research contractors and save the contractors money, Myers said.

Myers on Friday also discussed his vote against the state's capital budget. The state won't receive federal stimulus dollars next year.

"It's going to be tough for them to run this state with the dollars they have," he said. "We should have started this year to clean this up.

"When we did some of the things we did in the capital budget and then told our citizens that they're going to have to take more furlough days ... voting against the capital budget was voting against irresponsibility."

Shank, who also serves as the House's minority whip, approached the budget this year by asking "how many (furlough) days is it to pay for this program," he said.

State employees are taking furlough days again this year.

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