Harford's hopes for the legislature

January 17, 1994

Money for schools, a new judgeship and the Maritime Museum in Havre de Grace will be high on the shopping list of Harford County in this year's General Assembly session, the last one before the fall elections.

Because of those elections for all state and legislative offices, the assembly will be wary of voting new funds that would raise taxes or imbalance the weighty state budget. Voters will likely be more aware of the budget impact than the legislation passed. "I think it's going to be a caretaker session," Del. David R. Craig predicts.

With an annual load of 7,000 cases, the Harford Circuit Court's four assigned judges are swamped. Postponements are almost routine, more appeals are filed alleging denial of a speedy trial, witnesses disappear in the delays. Another judge would help to reduce the mounting backlog of criminal cases.

Increased school transportation funding, to permit the busing of young children who now must walk, is supported by some county delegation members. The outlook, as for the judge's position, is unpromising given the legislature's tight purse strings mentality.

A county priority in Annapolis will be getting more state money for construction of new schools and improvements to existing ones. Expansion of C. Milton Wright High School and planning the Forest Lakes elementary school top the list. The governor will be asked to increase the construction appropriation in his supplementary budget.

Some school bills won't require extra state money. There is a proposal to tighten the qualifications for members of the county nominating caucus that screens school board candidates. A companion measure would require the governor to appoint one of the two persons chosen by the caucus, which he now can ignore.

Harford Community college wants to eliminate the two liaison board of trustees seats that are automatically filled by members of the Harford County Board of Education, a provision that serves little purpose for the two separate institutions.

A bill to confer civil service protection on the Harford sheriff's deputies is sought by the county, although similar efforts have failed in the past. The measure, which would protect them from political removal and manipulation, takes on added significance because of the controversy over control of the sheriff's duties. Voters will decide this fall whether to establish a county police force or let the sheriff continue with that responsibility.

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