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Carroll County Times
Carroll County News

Commissioners to name legislative liaison

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is expected to name one of the county government's senior staff members as its official legislative liaison next week, a position that has not been filled in five years.

The liaison would be responsible for researching and analyzing legislation introduced in the General Assembly, determining its possible effect on Carroll, acting as a go-between for the commissioners and county legislators and even testifying before House and Senate committees on behalf of the county. This staff member will spend the majority of his or her time in Annapolis during the legislative session, which runs from January to April, and will continue to work with Carroll delegation after the session ends.

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Frank Johnson, a former senior assistant county attorney and mayor of Mount Airy, was the last person to serve in such a role, from 2004 until 2010, when the Board of Commissioners chose not to fill the position. In the fiscal year 2012 budget session, the board voted to eliminate the position, according to the Times archives.

The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to name someone as its legislative liaison, with Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, dissenting.

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Rothschild said he was "genuinely puzzled" by what he deemed to be contradictory behavior on the part of the other commissioners. Since the board was sworn in in November, its members have made it clear they wish to reduce what they believe is unnecessary spending, he said, which included firing Rothschild's aide.

"Now we want to commit $100,000 into a liaison position?" he said.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, who entered the motion, disagreed with Rothschild and said he does not expect any additional costs associated with assigning someone these duties.

Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, said even if the added duties incur increased expenses, the service this person provides "will pay for itself many times over."

Every legislative session, about 2,500 bills are introduced, she said, and the county's delegates and senators do not always have the time to research each of them.

"When the liaison was there before, he provided a valuable service to the commissioners and us," Krebs said. "[Johnson] really kept us in the loop."

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said the board had voted earlier in its term to contract this position, but this will be a more cost-effective solution.

Several times during the recent legislative session, Howard said Carroll's delegation either supported or even sponsored bills that would have had or will have adverse effects on Carroll they weren't aware of.

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"Our delegation is the first to admit they need more [county] resources down there," he said.

Rothschild suggested the commissioners continue their current practice of assigning two commissioners with the responsibility of meeting with Carroll legislators once a week. During the most recent session from January to April, Howard and Rothschild had this responsibility.

Howard said that was well and good, but there are a lot of pieces to legislation that the commissioners and their staff don't always have the time to research. Many other jurisdictions in Maryland have designated staff as legislative liaisons and they work to their benefit, he said.

"[This] is why other counties tend to come away [from the legislative session] with more than we do," Howard said.

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Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, who is also a former Carroll County Commissioner, said "most of the counties in the metro area, if not all of them," have someone acting as a liaison to make sure members of the General Assembly are made aware of the impact legislation might have on each county.

"It gets hectic [in Annapolis], and a lot of times it would be good to know up close and personal of any impact legislation would have on the folks back home and in county government," Shoemaker said.

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Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said that while Carroll legislators were able to work well with the commissioners during the most recent legislative session, having a designated liaison will streamline communication. The county's legislators are well-versed in bills they introduce, he said, but the biggest advantage in having a legislative liaison will be having someone who can track statewide bills and their impact on Carroll.

"In the crush of the General Assembly, it is good to have just one person, and the liaison can be following the ebb and flow of the session to give us context as to what is going on," Ready said.

wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-3315

twitter.com/Wsentor


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