Delegation Veterans Label Session The Worst

Legislators Opposed Tax-increase Plans

April 12, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Ten-year Carroll Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte says the 1992 General Assembly session has been unequivocally the most unpleasant he's experienced.

The quarrelsome legislature couldn't agree on budget or tax proposals before Monday's conclusion of the 90-day session. It was forced into an extended session to enact a "doomsday" budget containing severe reductions.

The legislature finally agreed on a budget Friday evening, then was called into a special session by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to deal with three tax bills necessary to avoid further spending cuts.

"I think we look like fools because we couldn't do it in 90 days," said LaMotte, a Democrat.

LaMotte had expected by Tuesday to be heading back to rejoin his family, catching up on rest and resuming his career as a financial planner. But instead he felt like a man headingfor a guillotine.

"No matter what we do, we'll be viciously criticized" by an angry public that has lost tolerance for government, LaMotte said.

Carroll Sen. Charles H. Smelser, a state legislator for34 years, says he can't recall a tougher session than this year's. The Democrat serves on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, whichwas responsible for cutting the budget or forming tax proposals to make up for a revenue shortfall.

"It was difficult particularly in view of the hours we spent on the budget," he said. "We'd go 8 (a.m.)to 11 (p.m.)."

Many Carroll constituents opposed tax increases, said county legislators. Groups that included teachers, PTA activists and advocates for the poor urged the legislators to consider whether their anti-tax votes would result in damaging consequences.

Carroll's six legislators remained firmly against any new taxes throughout the budget-dominated session. Carroll Dels. Richard C. Matthews and Donald B. Elliott participated on the 26-member House Republican Caucus, which offered a no-tax budget proposal.

However, LaMotte said he would reconsider his position during a special session, predicting he would be unable to support some budget cuts in good conscience.

The following is a look at how the legislators focused their effortsduring the 90-day session and how they fared on their own initiatives.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll: Dixon served on the House Appropriations Committee, which whittled down the budget, and chaired a committee on pensions.

The stockbroker sponsored a bill with the appropriations chairman creating an early retirement incentive programfor state employees with at least 25 years of service.

The bill, which passed, is designed to save money for the state and reduce its work force through attrition.

He vowed to return with more bills to protect citizens against potential mining damages. A House committee tabled for interim study three of Dixon's bills intended to balancecitizens' concerns with competing mining interests and killed another Dixon bill that would have presumed mining companies liable for land depressions near their quarries.

The General Assembly enacted Dixon's bill which would require the Motor Vehicle Administration to expunge driving violations of certain drivers who maintain clean records for three years.

Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard: One Elliott bill already has been signed by the governor and enacted intolaw. Intended to save money, it requires the state to recover and redistribute durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, from Medical Assistance Program recipients.

He also succeeded in passing a consumer-protection measure for the hearing-impaired, allowing them tocancel purchases of hearing aids within 30 days for any reason.

His effort to make it a crime to be a spectator at cockfights passed the House, but was killed in the Senate by a 5-5 committee vote.

Hevowed to continue next year his battle to compel the Department of Human Resources to change the way it handles records of those who are wrongly accused of child or adult abuse. Two bills he sponsored this year didn't pass.

Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll: The chairman of the Carroll delegation, Matthews was responsible for shepherdingthe county commissioners' bills through the legislature.

His measures to toughen penalties for drunken driving, limit plea bargaining for violent crimes and create a central registry for judges' decisions were rejected by the House Judiciary Committee on which he serves.

Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore: LaMotte advised several committees on health insurance legislation, hospital administration and health budget matters. He worked on money-saving revisions for the state's burgeoning Medicaid program, which finances health care for the poor.

He was disappointed at the negative reception for his growth-management bill, which had tougher compliance provisions than a similar bill introduced by the Schaefer administration. He withdrew the bill.

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