Wake Us When This Session's Over


April 09, 1995|By LIZ ATWOOD

You can wake up now, the 1995 session of the Maryland General Assembly is almost over.

Tuesday morning, the legislators pack their bags and go back to their real jobs in the real world.

I'm not surprised you slept through it. Most folks did, including the legislators. There's no other way to put it, this year was dull.

I know you thought you had committed an act of revolution back in November. You turned out all those tax-and-spend, good-ol'-boy Democrats and elected people who really knew how to cut taxes, get tough on criminals and make those lazy bums on welfare get a job, right?

So what happened? As far as Anne Arundel County is concerned, not much. Although one day remains, the session has been as exciting as watching ice melt in a Styrofoam cup.

In fact, the big news locally was ice. If the House of Delegates and the Senate can agree on the budget, Anne Arundel should get about $1 million to help build a skating rink on a swatch of land between Ritchie and Crain highways in Glen Burnie.

That's a victory for County Executive John G. Gary, who made the development of the Glen Burnie Town Center his No. 1 legislative priority. He wants to transform a gravel lot into shops and condominiums, and to help jump-start the project with an amphitheater and ice skating rink. A few delegates were a bit doubtful that Glen Burnie could really foster the next Nancy Kerrigan.

The discussion at the county delegation meeting a couple weeks ago went something like this: "Has anyone in Glen Burnie asked for an ice skating rink?" Del. Michael Burns asked county Human Services Director Ardath Cade.

"Well, no, but Mr. Gary thinks it will bring the community together and give it a kind of heart," Mrs. Cade answered.

"Does anyone know how much this rink is going to cost?" Del. Marsha Perry asked.

"Well, no. Not exactly," Mrs. Cade said.

But at least an ice rink gives folks in Glen Burnie an alternative to cruising chrome highway.

The other big news you missed is that the Odenton Health Center probably will get a new roof. It might not seem like a big deal, but it would be if you were a patient there. I mean, imagine going there for a blood test during a thunderstorm. The nurse sticks the needle in your arm, then all of a sudden says, "Oh, excuse me, I've got to go get another bucket to catch the water dripping from the ceiling. I'll be right back."

The roof for the health center is a good idea.

You also missed the latest quarrel between the city of Annapolis and Anne Arundel. Those two get along about as well as 10-year-olds riding in the back seat on the family vacation. The county doesn't give Annapolis the respect that's due the county seat, not to mention the state capital.

Take this latest flap. Annapolis believes the county has cheated it out of about $9 million in cigarette tax revenues. The county was supposed to share its take with the city, but it stopped

giving the city the money in 1969.

Sen. John A. Cade sponsored a bill that basically said the county doesn't have to pay the city the money. The Senate and the county's legislative delegation thought the bill was a good idea, but in the end, a House committee decided it didn't want to get involved in the dispute and killed the measure.

Maybe you're wondering about the really big issue, the one everyone talked about before the General Assembly convened: the county executive's quest for the power to appoint the school board.

Right now, the school board is appointed by the governor, who is supposed to take into account the recommendations of the School Board Nominating Convention. Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer never cared a fig what the convention delegates thought; he always appointed the person the executive wanted.

Mr. Gary figured the law ought to reflect that reality and asked the General Assembly to give him the authority. But some of the legislators had other ideas. Some wanted the school board to be elected. Del. Michael Busch sponsored a bill to create a commission which would interview candidates and make recommendations to the governor.

In the end, the legislators decided the issue needed further study this summer. At least they're not opposed to year-round education.

What else? Funding for the new jail looks likely. There was also the matter of the old Wiley Bates High School. The county came to the General Assembly asking for $2 million to help convert the former black high school into a community center and senior housing facility. But the legislators began to wonder whether private organizations were coughing up enough money. They said, in so many words, that the county should get the money from the private groups first and come back again next year. Now you know what happened in the 1995 session of the General Assembly.

Didn't your mother tell you it's not polite to yawn?

Liz Atwood is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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