Sizing up Howard's delegation

January 13, 1995

Howard County residents should not expect a whole lot from their new delegation to Annapolis this year. Whether one believes that the prominence of Republicans in the delegation will cause fireworks or reap benefits for the county, the reality will probably be relatively undramatic. Even in his vaunted role as House minority leader, Del. Robert H. Kittleman says he expects "nothing sexy" to happen as far as the delegation is concerned.

In many ways, this prediction has more to do with the kinds of issues facing the legislature this session than with party politics. Much of the delegation's work will involve issues with statewide ramifications: welfare reform, taxation, juvenile justice.

On the critical issues, Howard's delegation is likely to divide along party lines. While the county's House delegation is split 4-4 among Republicans and Democrats, the Senate delegation is dominated by two Republicans to one Democrat.

The wild card in the mix is Mr. Kittleman. While Republicans gained strength in the last election -- the GOP caucus has increased by 26 members, to a total of 41 -- Democrats still control both houses. Democrats also hold the governorship, despite a strong showing by Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Mr. Kittleman's strong support of Ms. Sauerbrey and her efforts to overturn the election is unlikely to endear him to Democratic opponents.

Still, Democrats won't do anything that can be perceived as writing off Howard County. In fact, the top priority of nearly every jurisdiction -- the dissemination of school construction funds -- is only partly a function of political concerns in the General Assembly. How those funds are divided is largely based on school population projections.

With the county's 34,576-pupil population expected to increase by 13,000 over the next 10 years -- among the most explosive enrollment growth rates in Maryland -- Howard is expected to again seize a sizable share of construction funds.

The only major local legislation expected this session is one on which Democrats and Republicans have split in the past. Sen. Martin G. Madden says he will reintroduce an ethics bill aimed at curbing developer influence over the Zoning Board.

The bill will probably be altered to place restrictions on the county executive and opponents of zoning changes as well. Even so, the legislation doesn't go far enough, the Democrats don't like it and that may be all it takes to send this bill crashing.

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