Baltimore County plays and wins

April 21, 1994

Before the recently concluded General Assembly session got under way, Baltimore County's chances for success looked better than they had for years. This was largely due to the emergence of Casper R. Taylor Jr. as the new House of Delegates Speaker and his willingness to build a broad power base that would include Baltimore County delegates.

For much of this current four-year term, the county delegation has been on the outside looking in. The delegation members had put themselves there with their conspicuous opposition to the budget-balancing state tax increases of 1992.

Better things looked to be promised this year; indeed, the members seemed up to the challenge of being part of the new leadership. And they proved it by backing Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed tobacco tax. The proposal ultimately failed, but Baltimore County's delegation was nonetheless rewarded for its support of the ill-fated tobacco levy. The payoff? The county will receive not only a 7.5 percent boost in direct state aid for fiscal 1995 but also $8 million in school construction money.

Among the largest chunks of change are $2.1 million for an all-new Essex Elementary, $1 million for the Cromwell Elementary magnet school, $779,000 for the Western School of Technology magnet, $721,000 for a new roof at Chesapeake High and $510,000 for Johnnycake Middle.

Capital grants likewise went toward construction at Essex Community College ($2.9 million), erosion prevention on Hart-Miller Island ($1 million), conversion of the old Pikes Theater into a cultural arts center ($500,000) and rehabilitation of White Marsh Run ($250,000).

As for local legislation, even a leader of the county delegation acknowledged that little of substance was achieved. The key county bills passed would add two members to the county school board; mandate that school bus riders not be made to cross streets to board or depart buses on roads with speed limits of 40 mph and higher; charge 16-year-olds as adults when they commit certain violent offenses; lower the standard of proof required to convict zoning violators, and make jail inmates pay for their medical expenses.

In all, it was an unusually fruitful legislative session for Baltimore County's senators and delegates, one in which they appeared to learn that political teamwork puts a lot more points on the board than booing from the sidelines does.

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