5 bills passed for Howard But Thomas is unhappy with defeats

April 14, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

As the dust settled in Annapolis, the Howard County delegation appeared to have won some and lost some during the General Assembly session that ended late Monday.

Of the dozen or so local bills sponsored by the delegation, five passed and now await the governor's signature. They include bills that:

* Could reduce the amount of time potential jurors have to wait around the courthouse.

* Would require the county executive to approve a raise in the piggyback tax.

* Would permit the county to establish an economic development authority.

"I think it's been a very good session for Howard County," said Del. Martin G. Madden, a Republican from District 13B.

But not everyone agreed. Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a Democrat, said she was disappointed that only one of the delegation's three bond bills passed.

Among the bond bills, the General Assembly approved a $70,000 request to fix up Carroll Baldwin Hall, a community center in Savage. But it refused the delegation's $1 million request for a county agricultural center.

It also turned down a $250,000 request, strongly supported by Mrs. Thomas, for a halfway house for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

"The delegation just doesn't have the clout it should have down here," said Mrs. Thomas, who added that she would keep searching for funds for the halfway house.

Mrs. Thomas is from Columbia and one of three Democrats in the heavily Republican county delegation. The General Assembly is dominated by Democrats.

Republican Del. John S. Morgan disagreed with Mrs. Thomas' assessment of the delegation's performance.

"If she is so high up in the Democratic leadership, and she can't get her own halfway house, then she shouldn't blame a Republican delegation," he said.

Mr. Morgan of District 13B said Howard County had received one of the largest percentage increases in state local aid.

The county's share of operating budget state aid is $65.6 million this year -- $8.5 million more than the fiscal 1993 budget, Mr. Morgan said. Howard County's 14 percent increase was higher than the single digit increases in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, he said.

"I think [Mrs. Thomas] is focusing very much on her own failed bond bill," he said. "If she looks at the numbers, she'll see we did extremely well."

Most of the delegation's more controversial bills died off in committees during the past two months.

But an ethics bill sponsored by Mr. Madden recently died on the floor of the House of Delegates. The circumstances generated considerable bad feeling among some Howard County legislators.

The bill would have required anyone with a 5 percent interest in a rezoning request to disclose contributions of more than $500 to a Howard County official over a period of four years. The bill had interested county residents concerned about the influence of campaign contributions on zoning decisions.

Mr. Madden blamed Mrs. Thomas for the bill's death. He said she spoke against the bill during a floor debate and then voted in favor of it. "It was a political defeat orchestrated by one of our own," Mr. Madden said.

Mrs. Thomas recalled it differently.

She said she pointed out the flaws in the bill on the floor but ultimately supported it because it was a small improvement over the status quo.

"It did one little thing," she said of the bill, which she had earlier derided as riddled with loopholes.

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