Municipalities Make Their Pitch To Carroll Legislators Law Enforcement And Revised Zoning Code High On Towns' Wish List

December 09, 1990|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

TANEYTOWN - When they head to Annapolis next month, Carroll's legislative delegation will confront a ballooning Maryland budget deficit, a possible round of state layoffs and the more-than-likely resurrection of last year's abortion battle.

But while they and the rest of the General Assembly get set to begin the 1991 session, leaders of the county's cities and towns want to make sure their needs aren't lost in the flurry of legislation.

To do that, the Carroll chapter of the Maryland Municipal League last week brought the six-member delegation -- as well as the County Commissioners and nearly every local official in Carroll -- to the American Legion Hall here and served up turkey, fried oysters and top legislative priorities.

The MML wants the General Assembly to make finding, charging and fining people who break municipal laws easier and more effective. It also is calling for a technical revision to the state's zoning code that would give towns and cities more flexibility in determining zoning variances.

"These issues may not be the most important issues to everyone, but we think they are important to the municipalities," said Lloyd R. Helt Jr., mayor of Sykesville and a member of the league's legislative committee.

In addition to the two bills it wants passed, the league plans to seek more financial and educational assistance toward mandatory recycling programs. Those state-mandated programs -- which all Maryland municipalities must have in place by 1994 -- so far have received little state money or technical support.

"These issues are important to all of us," said James L. McCarron, Carroll chapter president and a Taneytown councilman.

For the MML, the annual haranguing, cajoling and convincing of state legislators often results in making the lives of elected local municipal officials a little easier. And often it can lead to bringing a little more power -- and money -- to the municipalities.

"As it always happens, the issues we discuss involve either money or power," Helt said. "This year, because of the fiscal integrity of the state being in question, we are going for power."

Municipal infractions and zoning regulations don't have the urgency of state budget cuts or worker layoffs. And they don't evoke visceral responses as do the issues of abortion or taxation. But they are issues, insist some members of Carroll's delegation, that should be discussed.

"I really think they will be brought to the General Assembly," said newly elected state Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore. "What they're asking for doesn't entail any more money."

And money is going to be the topic of conversation in Annapolis come January, says the head of the Carroll delegation.

"Money is the issue," said Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll.

"What the league is proposing has more to do with turf, so I think that works in their favor."

The league is the chief lobbyist for the 149 cities and towns who are members, bringing the concerns of local government to Annapolis. While the issues may not seem to be the most pressing of the day, they are important to the leaders of Maryland's municipalities.

And the call for more teeth in local law enforcement and for refinement of zoning laws can make a difference in the budgets -- and well-being -- of towns and cities, MML members say.

"The league picks a different package each year," said Maxine Wooleyhand, a Sykesville councilwoman and the secretary-treasurer of Carroll's MML chapter. "Because of the tight money this year, we've decided to go for the power bills."

The annual process of selecting what to take to Annapolis sometimes alienates one municipality from another, but it shouldn't be looked at that way, said Helt.

"Every year, they try to divide MML," he said of some state, county and local leaders. "They try to ask you if this really is your program, is this really going to benefit you. These issues are important to you."

The legislative issues brought before the more than 80 people attending Friday night were hammered out over the last several months and were made official last month during the league's annual legislative conference in Easton.

The league's push for more help in recycling and other state-mandated programs and in fighting municipal lawbreakers is a marked contrast from last year's legislative agenda.

For the 1990 General Assembly session, the MML fought for -- and won -- about $2 million in law enforcement money. It was distributed to 83 municipalities -- five in Carroll -- throughout the state.

The league's attempt to initiate a 5 percent tax on videotape rentals was defeated last year.

Overall, says MML Executive Director Jon C. Burrell, the league has been successful in Annapolis over the years. Since 1980, the MML has seen 46 --about 50 percent -- of its proposals make it into law.

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