Heavyweight in Annapolis

Anne Arundel: General Assembly delegation poised to bring back bacon for schools, against smoking.

January 12, 2000

THIS IS quite a year to represent Anne Arundel County in the General Assembly. Everything seems to be going the county's way. State coffers overflow with cash, Republicans hold hands with Democrats and County Executive Janet S. Owens is in the governor's good graces.

Suddenly, Anne Arundel can flex its muscles along with the big boys from the Washington suburbs and the Baltimore city-county contingent. Anne Arundel officials are scrapping for fat slices of Annapolis bacon.

Anti-smoking money is a key concern. County Health Officer Frances B. Phillips worries that her department's successful "Learn to Live" program ironically will be penalized for its smoking-prevention success.

The program, which began in 1993, has helped the county drop its cancer death rate from first to eighth in Maryland. Overall, there has been a 15-percent decrease in Arundel cancer death rates from 1990 to 1997. That achievement deserves a reward, but Dr. Phillips is concerned that with smoking and cancer-death numbers down, the opposite will happen -- the governor and lawmakers will think the health crisis is history.

The county's delegation must convince the governor and lawmakers that they have won battles, not the war. Anne Arundel has to get its fair share from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement to continue its anti-smoking crusade.

Anne Arundel's delegation also must push for school repair money. The delegation aims gain $25 million in state money this year to make aging schools habitable. Given the state's $1 billion surplus, the goal is reasonable.

In another matter, county delegates are proposing a bill that would allow restaurant chains to hold liquor licenses at more than one location outside Annapolis, which has a separate licensing commission. The current law discourages chains in the county from opening new restaurants in the developing BWI Business District. The legislation is good for business and deserves support.

This legislative session brings so much promise. The county's delegation can make a big difference for Anne Arundel County and its residents this year.

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