Howard legislators brief league Budget, lottery trouble some

January 25, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

The county's top elected officials talked politics and programs with more than 50 residents at a luncheon Saturday.

The county League of Women Voters sponsored the three-hour luncheon at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Fulton. Legislators, including Sen. Thomas M. Yeager and Del. Virginia M. Thomas, Del. Robert L. Flanagan, Del. Robert H. Kittleman and Del. Martin G. Madden, pitched their bills and answered questions before the politically minded audience of mostly middle-aged women. County Executive Charles I. Ecker, former and current Board of Education members and County Council members also attended.

Ms. Thomas said she was working on a proposal that would make it hard for minors to buy cigarettes from vending machines. She would restrict the machines to places teen-agers where may not go, such as bars.

"The objective is to deal with the problem of young people who start to smoke," she said. "We know when they start at an early age it's more difficult for them to stop, and we know all the health problems associated with smoking."

Mr. Yeager said legislators were having a hard time swallowing Gov. William Donald Schaefer's $12.7 billion operating budget for next year because the governor had relied too much on lottery profits -- specifically, $100 million from keno. He also said he is pushing a proposal that would allow the state to take away driver's licenses of parents who are more than six months delinquent on their child support payments.

"I know there are arguments that if you take away their driver's license, they can't go to work," he said. "But they're going to work now, and they're not paying."

Mr. Kittleman, R-14B, and Mr. Madden explained their proposal to do away with legislative scholarships and said the state can use the $7.1 million scholarship budget in better ways.

Rita Bush of Columbia asked the political contingent whether there was a push to change the way residents register to vote. "One of the problems of voting in Maryland is it's not easy, but it's certainly easier now," she said. "We allow people to register by mail now. Do you have any proposal to make registering easier?"

Legislators said they were awaiting the fate of a congressional bill that would automatically register drivers as voters.

Mr. Madden said the General Assembly might not have to change the registration process if it passes his one-day, one-trial proposal, which would limit the numbers of days residents would have to report to court for possible jury duty.

"Part of the problem is people don't vote is because they're afraid of jury duty," he said.

Ms. Thomas said she was unsympathetic to people who aren't registered to vote and that any program to increase voter registration would cost money. "We need these dollars for the homeless and other things, frankly," she said.

Laura Platter of Columbia was concerned that the state was balancing the budget by using lottery revenues. Legislators said they had similar concerns. "I think this is a wrong thing for us to do," said Mr. Flanagan. "I don't think it is the right thing to rely on an addictive form of gambling," he said.

"The legislators are going to be in a difficult position, the ones who oppose keno," said Mr. Yeager. "If you oppose it, you're going to have to come up with cuts in the budget or come up with alternate forms of revenues."

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