Editorial: Harford delegation to Annapolis is lackluster at best

There was a time when those representing Harford County in the Maryland State Legislature served an important purpose.

Before home rule, as the county executive and county council form of charter government is known, nothing much could get done without the state legislature approving it. Then, four decades ago, that all changed when charter government came into being in Harford County in 1972.

The role of state legislators changed, but their importance to Harford County didn't. As former Del. William H. Cox Jr. so proudly exclaimed: "We brought home the bacon!" That bacon was state funding for roads, schools and the like. Cox, a Democrat, was part of a mostly Democratic Harford County delegation to the state legislature. It was propitious for Harford County, with a majority Democratic voter registration, to be represented by Democrats in a Democratic-controlled legislature making laws and spending money in a Democratic-controlled state.

Then things started to change. That change has sunk to a new low with the recent report that Harford County's delegation to Annapolis is ending a long-standing tradition of meeting with county government and county agencies to prepare for the 90-day session that begins in January.

"The Harford County Delegation has decided that, since the County Executive has announced that he has no legislative agenda for the County in 2012, there will be no pre-session legislative meeting this year," said a recent email sent by Rick Impallaria, the head of the delegation, to the county executive, the county council and other county agencies.

That's nonsense. Just because Craig doesn't have a legislative agenda doesn't mean other county agencies don't. And, despite the delegation's token offering of interest, it owes it to Harford County to do more than just say contact us if you have any concerns.

Or more precisely, as Impallaria's email said: "However, the Delegation is very interested in hearing your individual concerns. This applies to any departments in the executive branch as well."

The real issue, as we've written in these columns before, isn't whether Craig has a legislative agenda for the 2013 session or whether the delegation is holding a meeting. The real issue is the ineffectiveness and ineptitude of the Harford County delegation.

Craig, a good Republican, who was a Republican long before it was fashionable in Harford County, wasn't complimentary of his fellow Republicans. (All of the county's representatives to the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland State Senate are Republicans, except for Del. Mary Dulany-James, a Democrat.)

"There are some good members of the Harford County Delegation," Craig said, "but the weak ones weaken the whole group."

We think Craig was being kind. We're not sure there are any good ones. And we're sure there aren't any in the Harford County Delegation who can get anything done in Annapolis for the good of Harford County. And that includes Sen. Barry Glassman, who many are seeing as the presumptive successor to Craig as Harford County Executive.

"They don't work as diligently as they need to," Craig, himself a former state delegate, said last week about the delegation. "It's time for me to spend my time doing other constructive things."

We think it's unfortunate that the majority of Harford County voters in the various legislative districts can't see the same thing and make the changes that only they can make.

Craig's recent comments express a reality that we accepted numerous legislative sessions ago and moved on. Too bad the voters haven't moved on from this bunch, too.

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