Frantic last day in State House General Assembly: School aid, racing boost, sprawl-control bill await final votes.

April 07, 1997

BITTER CONTENTION and unbridled parochialism gripped the Maryland General Assembly over the weekend, especially in the House of Delegates. Setting that divisiveness aside is paramount as state lawmakers confront major unfinished business before tonight's sine die adjournment.

If turf warfare breaks out again, cornerstone bills could die, including aid packages for both county and Baltimore City schools, as well as a sprawl-control measure Gov. Parris N. Glendening has put at the top of his list.

It was the governor's unprecedented delay in sending down a supplemental budget that spawned much of the anger and spurred renewed efforts by Prince George's and Montgomery county delegates to extort more school money from the Glendening administration. That effort failed on Saturday by a nearly 2-1 margin. Baltimore area and rural delegates united behind House Speaker Casper R. Taylor to thwart this unbridled money grab.

Still, there is plenty of time for mischief. A filibuster in the Senate could be especially destructive, with hundreds of bills unable to get a final vote before midnight.

Chief among lawmakers' concerns must be passage of the rTC school aid packages, especially the bill revamping management of Baltimore City's bankrupt system. Without this help, tens of thousands of city students will continue to receive a deplorable education that virtually consigns them to a life of impoverishment.

Meanwhile, Maryland's racing industry is counting on the House to approve a one-year rescue package. Otherwise, some 10,000 jobs could be jeopardized. The bill uses extra lottery funds and a tax on racing to boost purses. Without this added money, Pimlico and Laurel cannot compete against slots-rich Delaware tracks: Jobs and money would flow out of state.

Equally important is a provision for a major study of ways to spark new life in this historic state industry. Delegates should not give aid and comfort to the Delaware tracks by failing to help Maryland horsemen.

Other measures that deserve approval today include the governor's bill to direct state money into developed areas and avoid costly sprawl; the administration's plan to give medical care to uninsured middle-income pregnant women and their children; a funding bill for the insurance commissioner's office that gives a break to in-state insurance companies, and a compromise measure that would follow the lead of 45 states in making it tougher for injured employees to gain workers compensation if drugs or alcohol helped cause the injury.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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