County bats .232 in session


A coach wouldn't want his team to only win only one out of

four games it played. Neither would a farmer want to lose three-quarters of his crop each year.

But to some Carroll County leaders, that was a pretty good average for the county's General Assembly delegation in Annapolis this session, considering the obstacles it had to overcome.

Of the 56 bills Carroll County legislators introduced this year, 13 were passed by the General Assembly. Most are still awaiting Gov. Parris N. Glendening's approval to become law.

"I don't think any Republican delegation is going to be too successful with as many Democrats as there are down there," said County Commissioner Richard T. Yates.

Carroll County's six-member delegation has one Democrat, Del.

Richard N. Dixon from Westminster. There are 132 Democrats in the General Assembly and 56 Republicans.

"I don't think any Republicans are going to get anything through that the legislative leadership does not want," said Mr. Yates, who also is a Republican. "They got some things through, but they won't be too successful until we get more numbers."

Another challenge for the delegation was the number of freshman Carroll Countians who went to Annapolis this year; three of the six county legislators were elected for the first time in November.

"I learned in going to Annapolis this year that seniority carries a whole bunch of weight," said Melvin Baile Jr., a New Windsor grain farmer. Mr. Baile testified on the agricultural preservation bills that Del. Joseph M. Getty of Manchester and Sen. Larry E. Haines of Westminster introduced this year.

"The more seniority you have, the more influence you have over )) your fellow committee members," Mr. Baile said. "We were hampered by that. But I think we'll be in a lot better shape next year."

The House minority leader, Del. Robert H. Kittleman, a Republican who represents Howard and Montgomery counties, said he feels the same way.

He noted that Mr. Getty has carved out a niche for himself as an expert on election law.

Meanwhile, Republicans often turn to Del. Donald B. Elliott of New Windsor for advice on health care issues, Mr. Kittleman said.

As a group, the Carroll legislators usually voted the way their constituents and consciences led them, and were not swayed by special interest groups, Mr. Kittleman said. "They're rock-solid people, all of them," he said. "They understand where their constituents are coming from and have the courage to vote their convictions, even when it's not the popular thing to do.

"One of my strongest groups is Carroll County."

Included in the bills that passed were items that are important to many Carroll residents. Not only did the delegation successfully shepherd two bills through the General Assembly that will provide more money for Carroll County's nationally recognized farmland preservation program, four out of the five bills requested by the County Commissioners were passed.

They included a municipal bond bill; a bill requiring criminal background checks for county employees who handle money; a bill to codify the two deputy state's attorneys; and a bill that strengthened language concerning the county's contribution to the volunteer firefighters' pension fund.

The fifth county bill -- a proposal to allow the commissioners to assign site plan review and capital budget responsibilities to the Planning Commission -- was withdrawn when lawyers in the attorney general's office told Mr. Haines it was unnecessary.

"Overall, we had an excellent delegation that worked very hard for us," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said. "I think it's important to be able to interpret the legislation and follow it through. They [Carroll legislators] are quite qualified to comprehend and understand the legislation."

The two agricultural preservation bills that passed were heavily amended. But Mr. Getty's bill, as adopted, retained the once-a-year application cycle that simplified the appraisal and approval process local farmers were seeking.

Mr. Haines' bill, endorsed by a House-Senate conference committee, retained increased funding for the agricultural preservation program from real estate transfer taxes.

"I thought our delegation did an excellent job on the bills concerning [agriculture]," Mr. Baile said. "Unfortunately, they didn't get a lot of cooperation from everyone else."

In addition, an Elliott bill that called for a task force to study the future of Maryland's dairy industry made it through the General Assembly. Mr. Elliott's original proposal had called for a statewide milk commission -- not a study task force -- to ensure that farmers would be paid a minimum price for raw milk.

"It's definitely not what Don Elliott wanted," Mr. Baile said. "We're going to have to address the needs of the dairy industry in this state and I hope this does it. I'm just not for studies, I'm for action."

From a business perspective, county entrepreneurs are happy that the delegation members supported cuts in various taxes to industries, said Helen Utz, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce.

"It's not as important to me that they introduce legislation, but that they oppose legislation that would negatively affect businesses in Carroll County," she said. "All in all, it was a pretty good year for Maryland businesses."

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