Baltimore County: no more pariah

January 14, 1994

If any Maryland legislative delegation fit the definition of political pariah during the past few sessions of the General Assembly, it was Baltimore County's. Banished from the places of power in Annapolis for such missteps as opposing the budget-balancing tax increases of 1992, the delegation of Ellen Sauerbrey, John Arnick and Leslie Hutchinson et al. has long been on the outside looking in.

Amazingly, though, things look markedly better for Baltimore County lawmakers now that they have two members in important leadership posts: Catonsville Del. Kenneth Masters as the new House of Delegates majority leader and Pikesville Del. Richard Rynd as the new vice-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The person largely responsible for this turnaround is new House Speaker Casper Taylor, who has embraced the formerly forsaken Baltimore County delegation in an effort to lay down a statewide power base.

The county's lawmakers will try to use this clout as they pursue their key priorities of public safety and education. Along with County Executive Roger Hayden -- a virtual no-show at past sessions, who, like the delegation, has suddenly become more energized about Annapolis matters -- the county's senators and delegates will work on at least two bills designed to get tough on juvenile criminals.

One such measure would place more juveniles charged with violent crimes in adult courts. The delegation and executive also plan to correct infractions tied to alcohol consumption, such as a bill that would crack down on illegal drinking at bowling alleys.

On the education front, the delegation will address the issue of school board membership. Parkville Del. John Bishop proposes to make the governor appoint board members from the local nominating convention's list, while Essex delegate and delegation leader E. Farrell Maddox has the fanciful idea of putting appointees through Senate confirmation. Another piece of legislation that might emerge would grant a quick appeal process to demoted county school officials -- a response to the county's supposedly slow reaction to appeals made by school administrators who were transferred last year.

Certainly modest by most standards, Baltimore County's legislative package stands a better chance at success than those of years past, when the local delegation held seats in the General Assembly but not much of a presence there.

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