Highway backers say `yes' to organization

The Political Game

Highway: Advocates for the Intercounty Connector seem headed toward making the proposed Montgomery County road a political issue in the 2002 state elections.

February 01, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

SUPPORTERS of the long-debated Intercounty Connector are laying the groundwork for making the highway an issue in the 2002 state elections.

Legislators from the Democratic and Republican parties who support the long-planned road across northern Montgomery County have formed an advocacy group called "ICCYes" to push for the project.

The group is borrowing the strategy of other advocacy groups, such as gun control and pro-cigarette tax organizations: Publicize the issue. Force legislative votes on it. Keep track of how each lawmaker votes.

Group leaders say they hope to raise money to ensure the public knows who is for and who is against the highway. That means raising perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, said one of the organizers. "Basically we're conducting a campaign like any other campaign," said Del. Richard La Vay, a Montgomery Republican. "We need to raise a lot of money to do it."

The No. 1 opponent of the road is Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who pulled the plug last year on the ICC and announced plans to sell the state-owned right-of-way for the project. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the governor's choice to succeed him, has supported his position.

At a news conference yesterday to publicize the pro-highway effort, two would-be challengers to Townsend -- Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger -- voiced their support for the road.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has said he would introduce a measure to block the sale of the land acquired over the years for the ICC, and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. is expected to do the same.

Judge's swearing-in attracts many from political world

An unusually large and politically powerful crowd assembled in the Maryland House of Delegates chamber yesterday to watch Peter B. Krauser be sworn in as a judge on the Court of Special Appeals, the state's second highest court.

Until named to the seat, Krauser was chairman of the state Democratic Party, winning high marks for his role in the party's performance at the polls in 1998.

Yesterday, Glendening and other top Democrats seemed to be saying one last thanks to Krauser for his work in the political trenches. The governor, who appointed Krauser to the coveted judicial seat, began his remarks with a reference to Krauser's partisan efforts.

"Peter was a tireless advocate," the governor told a crowd of about 175, which included Maryland's U.S. senators, a congressman, several legislators and many local officials. "When someone would say something unkind about the governor or lieutenant governor, he was an attack dog."

Democrats should have mixed feelings about Krauser's move, added Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, because the state party is losing a good leader. "Any Democratic office holder who was for Peter Krauser [becoming a judge] was acting contrary to their own self-interest," Hoyer said.

Mainstream religious groups more active at State House

Glendening's proposal to use $6 million in taxpayers' money to buy textbooks for students at private and parochial schools has divided the religious community. Roman Catholic groups and some Jewish groups support the idea, while Presbyterians and some other Protestant groups oppose it.

But the split over the hot-button budget issue masks a quiet unity over a range of social issues. That unity occurs as Maryland's mainstream religions establish a more active presence in the State House every year.

Not that long ago, the Roman Catholic Church maintained the only real lobbying operation. Today, it is joined by paid representatives of Jewish groups, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Methodists.

In addition, an umbrella group of two dozen religious organizations -- including Christians, Jews and Muslims -- has hired Douglas Jones, a Lutheran minister in Burtonsville, as a part-time lobbyist.

The group, the Maryland Interfaith Legislative Committee, has established a wide-ranging agenda for this year's session, topped by a call for expanding a state income tax credit for the working poor and support for the governor's Smart Guns initiative. It also is pushing for more child care, more substance abuse treatment and a low-income housing fund.

Issues that divide the coalition -- such as the publicly funded textbook issue -- are left for individual members to handle.

Beryl Smith, chairman of the interfaith committee and a lobbyist for Baltimore-area Presbyterians, said the governmental activism was a natural move. "There is incredible diversity," Smith said. "But I think what we have in common is the devotion to social witness and to helping make a difference."

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