Harford County's shopping list for this year's General Assembly is a short one, after its productive trip to the state legislature last year. Schools, taxes, and crime and punishment are chief concerns for the county delegation, all of whose members are focused on the fall elections.
Election year posturing is likely to dominate this current session's activity. No one expects, or dares to propose, any measures that will raise major taxes or throw the budget out of kilter. "I think it's going to be a caretaker session," bluntly predicts Del. David R. Craig of Havre de Grace.
More money for schools and school transportation is a top priority. Sen. William H. Amoss, the only real veteran in the otherwise first-term delegation, supports offering school bus transportation to young children who now must walk, which would require more state aid for school transportation. County busing for private school pupils, a hotly debated topic, doesn't have legislator support.
A proposal to tighten accountability in the school board member nominating caucus and require the governor to appoint one of the caucus'two nominees may get delegation backing. The controversy simmers over the legitimacy of caucus participants and the governor's legal authority to ignore caucus nominations. Another measure sought by Harford Community College would eliminate the two liaison board of trustee positions automatically filled by members of the Harford Board of Education, an outdated provision.
Although outside the legislature's direct purview, Harford's delegation will focus on support for increased school construction funds to expand C. Milton Wright High School and plan the Forest Lakes area elementary school, and to improve older classroom buildings. The best way to secure these funds may be to press the governor to increase his school construction appropriation when his supplemental budget is submitted.
The county government is asking again for a bill to grant civil service status to Harford sheriff's deputies, protecting them from political removal, a proposal that takes on added weight in the public controversy over control of the sheriff's duties. Harford voters will decide in November whether to create a new county police force or leave law enforcement in the sheriff's office.
Faced with a mounting case backlog, the county also wants approval of a fifth Circuit Court judge, but the cost may again doom that legislation -- as it will many other money bills this session.