The lobbying arm of the state's cities and towns will reach a lot farther after Wednesday.

During the final day of its three-day convention in Ocean City this week, the Maryland Municipal League will unveil its Annapolis Connection, a program to put all local officials incontact with their legislative delegations as the General Assembly fine-tunes growth and tax measures struck down this year.

"The General Assembly seems to be on a fast track this summer," said Jon C. Burrell, the MML's executive director and chief lobbyist. "Annapolis Connection will get our point of view across, will get us involved as they discuss taxes and growth. We want to increase our impact, and we want to be plugged in to what's going on for the next four months."

Plugging in seems to be at the top of most local leaders' agendas these days. As nearly 50 of the county's municipal officials will find out in Ocean City beginning tomorrow, Maryland's 153 cities and towns have a lot of money at stake as the state government continues to wrestle with its own budgetary problems.

For the past 41 years, the three-day summer convention at the Carousel Hotel has given municipal officials the opportunity to spend three days by the beach and talk shop, often swapping stories and strategies.

But this year, officials say, those stories and strategies will take on greater importance.

"I am not wholeheartedly looking forward to going to the convention," Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said last week before leaving for Ocean City. "The beach is supposed to be relaxing, but I am going to be more interested in getting feedback on what is going to happen with the 2020 Commission and the Linowes Commission."

Both 2020 and Linowes had been municipal watchwords for most of1991's General Assembly session. The 2020 Commission presented a report that was to guide growth and development in the state with the aim of protecting the Chesapeake Bay. Robert Linowes, a Montgomery County attorney and friend of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, presented a report that formed the basis of Schaefer's failed 1991 tax reform package.

Both measures were met with stiff opposition from every municipality in Carroll because of concerns that the growth measures wouldinterfere too much with local land management and the tax measures would leave town treasuries less full.

As a result of budget cutbacks and the recession, attendance at this year's convention is expected to be down about 100 from last year's record 800.

Carroll's towns all expect to send representatives, in most cases their town councils and mayors. About 50 from the county -- at a total cost of about $22,000 to municipal taxpayers -- are expected to make the trip.

Inaddition to the unveiling of the Annapolis Connection program, topics covered at the convention will include the state's new open meetings law, insurance needs of municipalities, the new federal clean air act, recycling and regional cooperation.

"I think this convention is well worth the money," said David M. Warner, projects administratorin Manchester.

While four members of the Town Council and the mayor will be attending the convention, Warner said they won't be down at the ocean having a lot of fun.

"I've been to a lot of seminars over the years, and most of them have been bull crap. This one is always useful."

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