Legislator: There will be bill to monitor tip-jar money to fire and rescue association

The Washington County delegation offered a preview of the next General Assembly

December 14, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Shank

Washington County's state lawmakers were asked Wednesday about Maryland's role in local land-use decisions, the outlook for education funding and whether the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown's budget would be a target for budget cuts.

The half dozen questions posed to the county's delegates and senators surfaced during a forum previewing the next Maryland General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 11.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual forum, has tweaked the format in recent years.

Last year, instead of having lawmakers speaking from one table in the front of the room, the chamber placed each legislator at a table to chat informally with attendees.

This year, delegates and senators sat in a circle in the center of a large room at Hager Hall Conference and Event Center in Hagerstown, facing the audience.

Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, quipped that it was a "circular firing squad."

But the topics were serious, starting with what is being called a "war on rural Maryland."

Shank said PlanMaryland, a statewide growth and preservation plan, gives the state extra influence by directing money toward projects in certain areas.

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, said that Maryland's regulatory actions related to water and Chesapeake Bay pollution are heavy-handed and interfere with business growth.

One question referred to a series of stories published in The Herald-Mail  that raised questions about the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association's role in distributing tip-jar proceeds to volunteer companies.

Asked what the legislative result might be, Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, the delegation chairman, said there will be a bill to monitor tip-jar money that goes to the fire and rescue association as closely as money distributed directly to dozens of nonprofit groups.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, said there likely will be about $250 million for school construction projects in the coming fiscal year, the same as in recent years, and there probably will be another debate over whether to shift state pension costs to the counties.

Asked about another possible battle over University System of Maryland at Hagerstown funding, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, the past delegation chairman, said: "I don't think that we have anything to worry about, but stay tuned."

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