Chamber takes new approach at delegation forum

December 09, 2010|ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce hosted a pre-legislative listening session for state elected officials and chamber members and the public Thursday at Hager Hall Conference and Event Center. Attending were, from left, Joseph Thompson, Dallas Hopkins, Bradley Sell, Sen.-elect Christopher B. Shank, Mary Baykan, and Del. Andrew Serafini.
Kevin Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Participants abandoned the traditional question-and-answer format Thursday for more casual chats at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce’s annual pre-legislative forum.

Five members of Washington County’s 2011 state delegation to the General Assembly attended the morning session at Hager Hall Conference & Event Center. Each lawmaker sat at a different table, with six to 10 other people.

That led to small, more individual discussions — a break from the chamber’s normal format of a moderator asking questions of a panel.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said during the forum that he urged the chamber to try something else. He said he wanted to avoid having legislators make the same remarks they repeatedly made during the election season.

Sen.-elect Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, thanked the chamber for the different approach. He also urged the chamber to renew its focus on legislative matters that affect small businesses and to contact the delegation often with feedback.


Over breakfast, people chatted with legislators about a variety of issues — some governmental, some social. They moved from table to table to join different discussions. Myers’ table talked about pensions, the process of choosing the next Washington County Public Schools superintendent and the state’s prohibition on shipping wine through the mail.

Del.-elect Neil Parrott, a Republican, was part of a discussion about development and traffic between Western Maryland and Washington, D.C. He said his group also talked about whether requirements to give state contracts to a certain percentage of minority-owned businesses hurt Washington County, where there might not be many such businesses.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, told his table about the possibilities for state pension changes. During a wrapup speech at the end of the forum, Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, also spoke about pensions, declaring that local forces must fight the possibility of the state shifting costs to the counties. Serafini said his group also talked about education and health care.

New Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline, a Realtor, told Shank and Edwards that real estate agents are worried about a possible tax on their commissions. Current and soon-to-be lawmakers urged the audience to monitor and speak out about state issues. Edwards said people should contact lawmakers on legislative committees, where there’s the greatest chance to amend or defeat bills.

Sen.-elect Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington; Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Del.-elect Michael Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, didn’t attend the forum. The 90-day 2011 Maryland General Assembly session convenes next month in Annapolis.

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