Harford's Modest Legislative List

January 13, 1993

Right at the top of Harford County's list for the new General Assembly session, cynics suggest, is the hope for an immediate adjournment. When the state solons convened last year, they raised taxes and played havoc with county budgets, taking away nearly $6 million in state aid for Harford.

Keeping the state from making further cuts is a priority. Sen. William H. Amoss, an 18-year veteran of the legislature, believes the extensive restructuring job is largely completed and that no new taxes will be needed.

Despite modest expectations, Harford officials have targeted several bond issues for their lobbying efforts: state bonds to expand the county jail, build an apprentice training center for the community college, and establish a women's shelter. Outside the legislative arena, the county is pressing the state for money to build a badly needed addition to the overcrowded Bel Air Middle School.

Policy issues are given much less importance by county officials this year; no enabling legislation is being sought. But Harford's seven-member delegation -- all first-termers except for Mr. Amoss -- expect to propose bills covering such areas as health care, voter registration and criminal justice. Several education issues have aroused public debate in Harford County and could come before the 1993 General Assembly: repeal of the community service graduation requirement, election of county school board members, and public bus service for private school pupils.

Abolition of the 75-hour community service rule seems to have attracted support from legislators throughout the state, reflecting the opposition of school boards and parents to the state-imposed standard. Harford is no exception.

State legislation already permits busing of students to private schools in 11 counties. Some Harford private schools are asking for that option, which would still need County Council approval.

A recent flap over school board decisions on sex-education material revived the call for electing Harford board members, who are now appointed by the governor (as in 13 other counties.) But the chief advocate of an elected board in Harford, Sen. Habern Freeman, has changed his mind this year, in favor of a complicated two-tier local selection process that bypasses Annapolis.

We have strongly endorsed the volunteer service mandate and favor the county's right to decide on private pupil busing, but we are skeptical of Mr. Freeman's school board selection proposal.

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