Lowered expectations for Harford

January 14, 1993

Now is the winter of our discontent, not likely to be made glorious by the convening of state legislators in Annapolis this week. That is the head-down, defensive approach of Harford county officials to the General Assembly's latest session.

Burned last year by the actions of the legislature and governor to cut county aid and to impose new taxes, Harford will be seeking to hold on to what it has and fighting to keep the state from taking away any more.

The best hope is that the worst is over, although pessimism remains in fashion during the prolonged economic recession. Gov. William Donald Schaefer has yet to deliver his overdue budget for fiscal 1994, but Harford legislators say they expect he will not propose further tax hikes.

Despite modest expectations, Harford officials have targeted several state bond issues for their lobbying efforts. The county wants bond funds to expand the detention center, to build an apprentice training center for Harford Community College and to establish a women's and children's shelter.

Outside the legislative arena, the county is pressing the Interagency Committee for Public School Construction to reconsider authorizing state money for building an addition to the overcrowded Bel Air Middle School. The project did not make the original cut for the approval list of state funding.

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 Sen. William H. Amoss -- expects 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.

The 75-hour community service rule seems to have aroused opposition by many school boards and parents to the state-imposed standard. Harford is no exception.

Some Harford private schools are asking state legislation to permit public busing of their students, an option granted in 11 other counties.

And 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 12 other counties.)

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