House delegation starts session with partisan bickering Democrats say GOP kept them from leadership posts

January 22, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

With millions of state dollars for schools and other county projects at stake in this session of the General Assembly, Anne Arundel County's House delegation has split along partisan lines.

The six Democrats have complained that the seven Republicans have shut them out of delegation leadership posts. The Republicans say the Democrats boycotted a meeting in December at which the delegation typically elects officers and one on the first day of the session last week at which the Republicans adopted rules and elected officers.

"It looks bad," said Del. Phillip D. Bissett, who was re-elected delegation chairman at that meeting. "You don't ever succeed by boycotting meetings."

Del. Michael W. Burns, a Glen Burnie Republican, was elected vice chairman.

Democrats say the vice chairmanship should automatically go to one of their party as a symbol of cooperation. They also are angry about rule changes that allow a simple majority of seven as a quorum instead of eight.

"It is our belief that the best way to vest both parties, Republican and Democrat, in this effort was to have shared leadership responsibility such as we have in the Senate," Del. Marsha G. Perry, a Crofton Democrat, said Tuesday in a letter to Bissett, of Edgewater.

Catherine Kelly, the county's General Assembly lobbyist, is concerned that the bickering might hurt chances of getting the $10 million in state aid for renovations at Brooklyn Park Middle School to house the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts.

That project is County Executive John G. Gary's top priority. Gary also wants also wants $2.5 million in bond issues for other renovations and historic preservation.

"They are trying to work it out," Kelly said. "We have faith in the talented individuals that have been elected to their seats."

Others are exasperated.

"They'd better work it out," said Woody Bowen, vice president of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association. "That leads to a little bit of a loss of confidence. Are they down there to help me or are they there to battle each other over position?"

Members of both parties say they support Gary's request for $3 million in school construction money in addition to the $6.8 million recommended by the state Interagency Committee for Public School Construction and that they will present a united front at today's Board of Public Works meeting.

The board has the authority to add to the committee's recommendation.

State Sen. John C. Astle, an Annapolis Democrat who is chairman of the Senate delegation, suggested a sharing of power similar to that in the Senate delegation that he chairs. Democrats and Republicans alternate in leadership posts.

Bissett said yesterday that he has ideas for resolving the dispute.

"We're on the road to recovery," he said. His proposal will "keep [Democrats] as involved as they always have been, with an emphasis on the concerns that they have expressed," he said.

He did not elaborate on his ideas.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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