Smelser Bill On Teacher Retirement Outlay Is Criticized

Motto Of Carroll Legislators: 'Just Say No'

February 24, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Just say no.

The direct, no-nonsense message warning against the drug plague also could be an appropriate slogan to describe the firsthalf of the 1991 General Assembly session for Carroll legislators wary of several bold initiatives.

It's what the majority of the six-member delegation has been saying and hearing from constituents on the major issues confronting the legislature during the tumultuous first 45 days of the session, which concluded Friday.

Just say no, say five Carroll lawmakers, to theLinowes Commission's recommendations to restructure Maryland's tax system, at least for this year. In fact, say no to any new or expandedtaxes, including a proposed increase in the gasoline tax, they say.

Say no, say the five, to the proposed statewide growth management plan, which has been blasted by Carroll farmers and officials.

Twobudget committee members have said no to state budget estimates for fiscal 1992, offering more gloomy opinions of the economy.

Four ofthe six said no to an abortion-rights law, considered perhaps the most liberal in the nation, that was passed and signed by the governor last week.

Most constituents have urged the legislators to vote against the 2020 Commission's growth-control plan, the abortion-rightsbill, the proposed assault-weapon ban, a proposed 40-hour work week for state employees and various budget-reduction recommendations.

For the most part, the Carroll delegation has remained true to its conservative colors. The following is a midterm report card on the Carroll legislators and a glimpse ahead:

Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte,D-Carroll, Baltimore: If there was a highlight film for the first half of the session, LaMotte would top the show. In fact, he did make national TV news, appearing in an interview on Cable News Network Monday, the night the governor signed the abortion bill.

So far, he's been the most willing to consider the controversial proposals, suggesting that compromise could produce benefits.

LaMotte focused most of his efforts leading up to the session on working with abortion-rights advocates to craft legislation, which he co-sponsored. Throughoutthe first six weeks, he concentrated on generating support for the legislation in the House and coordinating strategy once the issue reached the floor to assure the bill's passage.

His other bills focus mainly on health and environmental issues. An effort to regulate all-terrain vehicles and reduce property damages from illegal riding was defeated for a fifth consecutive year. A bill to tighten state standards for the toxic substance dioxin received attention from environmentalists and executives from Westvaco Corp., one of the largest employers in Western Maryland.

Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll: Matthews continues to push for judicial reforms and to make criminal offenders ultimately pay for the cost of apprehending and prosecutingthem. But it appears he is fighting an uphill battle on some bills because of opposition from lawyer lobbyists and government officials. Also, those bills are heard in a committee composed of many lawyers reluctant to tamper with the system.

He has been responsible for overseeing all the county legislation and working on legislative requests from groups such as Carroll volunteer fire companies. He opposes any new taxes.

Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll: An Appropriations Committee member, Dixon has been a front-line recipient of the grim budget news -- a deficit pegged at about $500 million for the current year, and as much as $200 million for fiscal 1992. He'll face tough budget-balancing decisions for the remainder of the session.

Hehas said emphatically that he will oppose any measures to raise taxes because he believes that to be the constituents' desire.

Two ofhis own initiatives -- bills intended to close an election law loophole and keep small-time traffic violators out of court -- were defeated soundly in committees.

Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard: Elliott actively opposed the abortion-rights bill, attempting to attach restrictive amendments in committee and on the House floor.

His bill requiring all Maryland residents to contribute toward the state Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program predictably was opposed by Eastern Shore legislators, whose constituents aren't required to have their vehicles tested. The chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee was among the opponents, which doesn't bode well for the bill. Elliott said he would consider offering it as an amendment to an administration bill extending the program.

A hearing on his main initiative -- a bill establishing a state long-term care program for the elderly -- is upcoming. He also will join Dixon in the quarry struggle and push bills that would establish tighter smoking and sludge storage regulations.

He has been outspoken in his opposition to theadministration's growth-management act, which he says would undermine local land-use planning and zoning powers and reduce equity for property owners. He will hear testimony on the bill in committee Thursday.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard: A Budgetand Taxation Committee member, Smelser has focused on cutting government costs to balance next year's budget. He has introduced a measurecapping government contributions for teachers' retirement and SocialSecurity.

He's one of the hatchet-wielding senators who will havefirst crack at modifying the governor's budget-reduction plan for this year. He said he will oppose any tax increase proposal.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore: It's been a period to absorb, adjust and concentrate on constituent service for the freshman senator,who co-sponsored three anti-abortion bills.

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