Baltimore County's legislative delegation returned from the recently concluded General Assembly session with a modest but praiseworthy packet of achievements. Yet perhaps the most important gain made by the delegation was its improved standing as a power at the state capital.
During most of the previous term, the county delegation was outside looking in. This was owed mainly to the lawmakers' stand against tax increases, a position that angered State House leaders who saw higher levies as essential for balancing the budget. The seeming indifference of then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden toward many Annapolis matters made the situation worse.
The delegation started to creep back to prominence last year when Casper R. Taylor Jr. became speaker of the House of Delegates. Aiming to create a wide power base, Mr. Taylor embraced some of the key members of the Baltimore County team.
But it was during the 1995 session that Baltimore County's state senators, delegates, county councilmen and other local government officials showed a level of effective teamwork that hasn't been associated with the county's politicians for years. Much of the credit for this turnaround belongs to the new county executive, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. He helped set the collegial tone with a pre-session pep talk to the delegation, taking pains to make those members based outside Baltimore County feel that they, too, were valued players.
And while the legislature was meeting, Mr. Ruppersberger, council members and other county officials put in regular appearances at the capital. Speaking at hearings, grabbing elbows in hallways, they generally indicated that the pols in Towson really cared about goings-on in Annapolis.
At session's end, the results included state funding of $2 million for infrastructure improvements in the Owings Mills area (which has freed up county dollars for the repair of alleys and roads in older communities) and $250,000 to remove chromium and other toxins from Stansbury Park on the Eastside. Additional state dollars are expected when school capital funding is officially announced next month; Perry Hall middle and high schools and Towson High are slated for aid.
Moreover, two bills on the Ruppersberger agenda were passed. One would lower closing costs for first-time homebuyers. The other measure would stiffen the penalties for auto theft, setting a maximum of 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
It was a good first year for the county's new, improved Annapolis team. Higher standards have been set for the rest of the term.