Baltimore County: Improved Outlook

January 18, 1994

During recent General Assembly sessions in Annapolis, Baltimore County legislators have done little to write home about. Indeed, most of the news produced by the delegation in recent years has been negative. When the majority of the county's delegates and senators voted against the budget-balancing tax increases of 1992, one way that assembly bosses punished county lawmakers was to shut them out of leadership posts. In addition, the past year has seen the messy tales of east county delegates John Arnick and Leslie Hutchinson.

Further weakening the jurisdiction's position in the capital was County Executive Roger Hayden's indifference to Annapolis matters. Last year, for example, delegation leaders were still waiting for Mr. Hayden's legislative wish list days before the session convened.

But 1994 promises to be a different, more fruitful year for the county delegation, thanks largely to new House Speaker Casper Taylor's decision to include Baltimore County in a statewide base of power. The delegation is a lot closer to the action, with Catonsville Del. Kenneth Masters as the new House majority leader and Pikesville Del. Richard Rynd as the new vice-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

As if on cue -- and no doubt prodded by his approaching re-election campaign -- Mr. Hayden has shown uncustomary interest, holding pre-session talks with delegation members and pushing a more substantial package of bills than he has before. Among them are measures that would place more juveniles charged with violent crimes in adult courts, charge county jail inmates for doctor visits, and make it easier to convict zoning violators.

For the delegation, public safety and education are priorities 1 and 2 this session. County legislators will work with Mr. Hayden to get tough on juvenile criminals, while trying to persuade him to spend some of the unused public-approved bonds from 1992 for school construction. A delegation leader notes that the Hayden administration's reluctance to incur debt is misguided as long as the building moratoriums caused by school overcrowding hinder local economic development.

The delegation also is expected to sponsor bills on such topics as school board membership, lax liquor licensing and improper alcohol consumption at bowling alleys. Not exactly glamorous stuff. But the county's improved legislative outlook means its senators and delegates could have something positive to write home about for a change.

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