3 Lawmakers Recall High Notes As Curtain Falls On Session

Triumph For Dixon, Elliott And Lamotte

April 14, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Amid the tedious tasks of absorbing hours of testimony and voting onstreams of bills, three Carroll delegates enjoyed shining moments ofvictory during the 1991 General Assembly session.

For Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, the session was a learning experience in what it takes to get major, controversial legislation passed.

LaMotte was one of two primary sponsors of abortion-rights legislation in the House. Once the Senate acted on a similar bill first, heassumed a lead role in shepherding the legislation through the Houseunamended.

The bill was signed into law by the governor moments after its passage on Feb. 18.

For Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, often seen in the House office building chomping on a fat cigar,the last week of the session provided a chance to light up a victorysmoke, a la Boston Celtics legend Red Auerbach, when the curtain came down on a longtime nemesis, the mining industry.

Delegate DonaldB. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, co-sponsored the legislation presuming quarry companies liable for water supply depletions within a scientifically determined "zone of influence" around their operations.

It took the pair four years to refine the bill and get it passed in the face of heavyweight opposition.

For the three other Carroll legislators, there were no major personal triumphs in 1991.

As usual, Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, focused his energies on the money issues, helping to craft the state operating budget and chairing the Senate's capital budget subcommittee.

As usual, the House Judiciary Committee rebuffed attempts by Delegate RichardC. Matthews, R-Carroll, to toughen drunken driving, substance abuse and judicial sentencing laws.

And Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll,Baltimore, serving his first year in the legislature, came away empty-handed with the few bills he sponsored.

Several bills sponsored by LaMotte passed, including legislation regulating storage of certain recyclable materials and toughening requirements for health maintenance organizations and campaign finance reporting.

But the bill protecting abortion rights was the highlight of the delegate's nine-year political career.

"I learned more about the institution of the House of Delegates and the legislative process than the last eight years combined because of my leadership role in the abortion debate," said LaMotte."I've learned what it takes to get 71 colleagues to vote in one way on a major, major bill."

Elliott also had success with several other bills he sponsored, including a measure altering the Department of Human Resources' record-keeping for people suspected of child abuse or neglect.

Social service agencies now will be requiredto expunge names of suspected abusers from data banks once they havebeen cleared of wrongdoing and the case has been "ruled out."

Also, Elliott's bill intended to reduce the state's medical assistance costs and allow seniors to enter nursing homes while still retaining personal assets was assigned for summer study by the House Economic Matters Committee.

The bill would establish a long-term nursing careprogram for seniors who have certain insurance policies.

"They recognized it as being a good idea, worth looking at in greater depth,"he said. "Personally, I feel pretty good about what I've done. But there's no question the quarry bill is the highlight."

Elliott was unable to make headway in the session, however, on three issues he has worked on in previous years -- requiring non-smoking areas in public places; tightening the permitting process for sludge storage facilities; and spreading costs statewide for the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, now financed by eight metropolitan Maryland jurisdictions.

Dixon, Carroll's "point man" for money requests in the House, sponsored the bond bill providing a $1.9 million state grant to Western Maryland College in Westminster for the expansion of the Lewis Hallof Science.

Haines said he was "disappointed to some extent" in the outcome of bills he sponsored. But, like LaMotte, he also learned from his experience.

One bill that would have allowed owners of historic motor vehicles manufactured before 1946 to pay a one-time $25 registration fee, rather than $13.50 annual fees, was killed by a House committee after passing the Senate.

"I felt assured I wouldn't have a problem in the House when I testified before the committee," he said. "There didn't seem to be any negative response.

"I was probably naive on that point. Next year, I'll be sure to lobby."

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