Calendar played havoc with the final days of...

THIS YEAR'S

April 08, 1996

THIS YEAR'S calendar played havoc with the final days of the General Assembly session that ends at midnight. The Easter weekend led to single House and Senate sessions on both Friday and Saturday, instead of the normal day-and-night multiple sessions to push through hundreds of bills in advance of today's pandemonium. It means some major issues remain unresolved.

Heading the list are brownfields, wildlands and personnel reform. The Glendening administration is pushing hard for all three, as are top House and Senate leaders. Interest groups seek to kill these measures.

Brownfields legislation would revitalize abandoned warehouses and factories by giving owners incentives to remove toxic wastes and make the sites productive. The hang-up is that environmental groups don't trust companies to do the right thing. They want to severely narrow the scope of the bill. That approach means few sites would be cleaned up and redeveloped. Instead, the polluted land would remain an ever-present environmental danger.

City, county and state officials, as well as business leaders, strongly support a bill that liberally encourages corporate participation in this cleanup work. The revival of old industrial sites could produce tens of thousands of jobs throughout the state.

Wildlands legislation, meanwhile, would set aside 23,000 acres of environmentally significant land to remain relatively undisturbed. No vehicles and no mining or exploitation of the designated land. This is a way to foster valuable habitat for threatened plants and animals.

Most of the wildlands acreage is in Western Maryland, where legislators object to the size and number of parcels. But Del. George C. Edwards of Garrett County has made significant concessions, leaving room for a compromise.

On personnel reform, legislative leaders face a tough task fending off strong efforts by unions to kill this important step forward. Maryland's 70,000 state workers have long deserved a personnel overhaul to make the system more efficient and more responsive to their complaints.

The governor's bill would modernize state personnel practices, decentralize many functions, abolish the cabinet-level Department of Personnel, mandate regular work appraisals and phase in a pay-for-performance plan. We urge passage of this legislation before the midnight deadline. It could revolutionize state government, saving taxpayers millions while encouraging workers to excel.

Pub Date: 4/08/96

One final day for state lawmakers; Midnight deadline: Still unresolved are brownfields, wildlands and personnel reform.

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