Schmoke plans to seek more funds from state

January 10, 1991|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff Jon Morgan and Marina Sarris contributed to this story.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he soon will make another plea to the General Assembly for the state to take over the city's jail and Circuit Court system.

In Annapolis yesterday for the opening of the 1991 session, Schmoke said he also will ask the state to provide at least $5

million so the city police force can train and equip officers to fill 104 vacancies.

The money, said Schmoke, would put more patrolmen on the streets, which could help "combat any sense that Baltimore is not a safe place to live."

By the end of 1990, Baltimore had recorded 305 homicides, the most since 1972.

Although he has not yet formally revealed his 1991 legislative agenda, Schmoke discussed portions of his wish list during a reception for Delores G. Kelly, a newly installed city delegate.

Similar attempts by the Schmoke administration last year to have the state assume control of the jail and court system failed in the legislature. Schmoke said his efforts to seek similar legislation this year were boosted last month when the Bar Association of Baltimore City endorsed the proposed takeover in a published analysis of the city's overburdened court system.

The report, issued by a panel headed by attorney George L. Russell, concluded that the City Jail should be operated by the state Division of Correction and that the state should fund the Baltimore state's attorney's office and the circuit courts.

Operating budget requests for the city Circuit Court for the current fiscal year total $8.3 million. Of that amount, $217,000 comes from federal sources, $654,000 from state funds and the remainder from the city's own general fund.

For the 1992 budget year, the city has asked the Circuit Court system to seek no more than $6.3 million, the same funding level the courts have for the current fiscal year.

Schmoke was among the throng of lobbyists, relatives, friends and others who attended yesterday's ceremonies, which included receptions and the swearing-in of all 188 legislators.

The House of Delegates adjourned its opening session with a moment of silence for Del. Patricia Billings, D-Montgomery, who died Dec. 29. Billings had been a delegate since she was appointed in 1989 to complete the unexpired term of a member who had retired. She succumbed to lung cancer barely a month after winning her first legislative election.

"My mother's lifetime goal was to serve in the General Assembly and she was thrilled," said her son, Paul Billings, 24, who had served as his mother's campaign manager.

He said his father, Leon Billings, would seek appointment to the seat.

Among those spilling out of the House chambers were friends and relatives -- including toddlers in diapers -- there to see the lawmakers sworn in.

"It's been a long haul but it's worth it," said Libby Ramsbottom, a friend and supporter of freshman Del. Victor Sulin, D-Anne Arundel, who jostled with television news crews near the speaker's platform.

The serious business of state government was evident despite the largely ceremonial nature of opening day.

Sen. William H. Amoss, D-Harford, was fretting that the budget subcommittee he took over yesterday will be pressed for time because Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget is about two weeks behind an already tight schedule.

"We don't need any more bombshells," Amoss said.

Late yesterday afternoon, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller huddled in a State House hallway with Mark L. Wasserman, Schaefer's chief aide, to express their anger about the expected late arrival of the state budget. The Schaefer administration will introduce its budget about Feb. 1, instead of Jan. 18 as required by the state constitution.

"There has been a tremendous scramble to deal with the budget," Wasserman said afterward.

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