Promise of a Peaceful Session

January 19, 1994

As it did last year, Anne Arundel County's delegation to the General Assembly has gone into Annapolis with a list of modest requests. The trick will be for local lawmakers to come out of the session with as little bickering and posturing as they did in '93.

So far, the signs have been encouraging. The House delegation peacefully settled on Del. Victor Sulin, D-Severn, as its chairman, to replace Del. Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, who moved up the ladder to head the House Economic Matters Committee. Mr. Sulin has since pledged to avoid needless partisanship, even apologizing to Republican delegates for overlooking them when soliciting votes for the chairmanship. The atmosphere has been downright civilized.

And, while the specter of fall elections has sent legislators from other areas stampeding to file bills calculated to curry voters' favor, the local delegation is showing an admirable lack of cravenness. Two anti-crime proposals sponsored by Del. John Astle, D-Annapolis, will win him points with the public, but they seem to make sense, too. One would narrow the scope of those allowed to possess handguns; another would require gun dealers to take a photo and thumbprint of gun buyers, to be given to police in case the gun is used in a crime. Del. Joan Cadden, D-Brooklyn Park, is sponsoring a bill requiring school buses to stop at railroad crossings; Del. Philip Bissett, R-Mayo, wants to define what evidence is admissible in sexual harassment cases.

Though financial pressures have eased, money continues to be the local issue. A cap on property taxes makes it essential that local lawmakers compete with other jurisdictions for Anne Arundel's share of state aid and school construction money and stand firm against any new expensive mandates. Money is also a factor in what promises to be the sleeper issue of the year: the football stadium Redskins' owner Jack Kent Cooke wants to build in Laurel. How much will it cost local taxpayers to improve roads and utilities around the site? The delegation has agreed to reserve judgment at this point. That is wise considering the unanswered questions.

Overall, local lawmakers are promising a peaceful session of modest requests, reasonableness and lack of political ploys. It's a tall order, but the first few days of the session leave us reason for hope.

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