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Harford delegates, senators to push for school construction, fight gun control in General Assembly

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Harford's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will be tackling a number of major bills this year, including those dealing with gun control and the death penalty.

Some elected officials, like Sen. Nancy Jacobs, plan to fight those measures. Jacobs said her committee, Judicial Proceedings, will be reviewing those proposals and she is "against everything I have seen so far."

Jacobs said she plans to confront efforts to "take away guns" and to repeal the death penalty.

Nevertheless, "the big issue, of course, is going to be taxes and gun control," she said. "That should be very interesting, should be a very lively session."

Sen. Barry Glassman said the General Assembly has already averaged 50 to 100 letters on the issue of gun control.

The gas tax, which came up last year, will also be "a big issue," as will items related to septic systems and PlanMaryland, the state's new comprehensive master plan.

The long-contested hotel tax is not expected to get any traction, she said. So far, the delegation, except Del. Glen Glass, appears to be against the proposed room tax.

Glass said he is willing to support enabling legislation that would allow the county council to make it a county issue.

He said he probably would not introduce it, however, because it does not seem any other representatives would support it.

"It's dead in the water," he said of the room tax bill. "There's no chance, because everyone is thinking about the primaries and it's not going to go anywhere."

Jacobs said of the room tax: "It's not going to be an issue in the Senate, that's for sure."

Glassman said he likewise has not heard anything on the tax or any requests to bring it back.

"We have never seen a good accounting for how much that would generate, what the rate would be and how that money would be split up," he said.

Jacobs, for her part, plans to introduce bills that would close a loophole in child sex offender laws and allowing new AED defibrillators that give vocal instruction to the user.

The sex offender legislation focuses on people such as part-time coaches and teachers, in regard to background checks, Jacobs explained.

The AED "is amazing and it will save more lives than CPR because if you can get to somebody in the first four minutes with a defibrillator, there is about an 80 percent chance that they can make it," she said.

Glass, meanwhile, said he plans to introduce at least 20 bills, including one that would give a $5,000 tax credit for businesses that hire a disabled veteran and a $100 tax credit for anyone adopting a dog or cat from a shelter.

He also intends to bring back a bill allowing electricity consumers to opt out of BGE's Smart Meter program.

"Obviously I led the fight on that last year," he said. "Because of the health issues, privacy issues, I want people to have the right to opt out at no cost to them."

Glass is also proposing a bill to create a task force to study tax assessments.

"I think some people are paying too much. I think our taxes are too high and they are not fair," he said.

Other bills would extend the hunting season for several additional days past Jan. 31 and deal with food safety issues.

One of the food bills would allow at least some consumption of raw milk, Glass said.

"If you own a goat or cow, or have a partial share in a goat or cow, this says you can legally consume the milk," he said, adding the bill is better than nothing. "It's something. I want people to drink the raw milk if you want to do that."

A bill addressing GMO, or genetically-modified food, would require businesses such as supermarkets to label food that uses GMOs.

Glass said farmers' markets or produce stands would be exempt.

"I am doing it because I think food that has GMOs is not healthy for Harford County citizens," he said. "I am very concerned with what we eat."

Glassman, the senator, mentioned a couple items more specific to Harford.

He said he hopes to continue pushing for construction funding for Youth's Benefit Elementary, having been to a few meetings with the Interagency Committee.

He is proposing a bill to let the liquor control board hold a fund balance to use for items such as purchasing car equipment.

"We haven't given them an increase in over eight years," he said, explaining the bill would allow them to build up a reserve balance.

Another bill would create a license for conference center or convention center, effectively a large venue license.

Glassman said the bill is not aimed at the possibility of a county-paid conference center, which the administration has proposed in recent years, but is just to help out private centers like a new conference facility being built at Water's Edge in Belcamp.

The Palmer State Park, near Route 1 in the Dublin area, could get seed money to build a trail network or canoe launch, Glassman said.

He is pushing for $50,000 to $100,000 to begin funding that project.

"It's a fairly small state park but it's been really underutilized," he said.

One agriculture bill would require the state to compensate a farmer for agricultural land that is permanently taken out of production because of TMDL (total maximum daily load) or stormwater management and nutrient management requirements.

He said that follows a similar federal proposal.

The uncertain state budget means things could change, Glassman noted.

"We are kind of still watching this thing," he said about Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget. "There is going to be an increase in school construction funding. We have been pushing the board to make sure we have one major construction project that is ready."

He said the fiscal situation explains why he is focused on smaller items like the Palmer State Park funding.

"The budget is still in a deficit but some of these projects are pretty small," he said.

Glassman said he is also watching a new concept of a block grant that would include having the state guarantee some amount of funding per year.

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