Governor sets his pen to new batch of laws

Smart Growth measures, ethics initiative among more than 150 signed

May 19, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening capped the 2001 legislative year by doing one of his favorite things, signing Smart Growth bills.

The governor signed legislation providing tax breaks for land preservation, increasing spending on mass transit, creating a program to conserve open space and encouraging revitalization of older neighborhoods. All of them are initiatives he groups under Smart Growth.

The anti-sprawl measures were among more than 150 bills Glendening signed into law yesterday as he completed the business of this year's General Assembly session.

Among the others were bills giving the State Ethics Commission greater authority to discipline lobbyists and moving the state toward a uniform voting system.

The Assembly passed the ethics measure after a scandal involving lobbyist Gerard E. Evans, who was convicted of defrauding his paint industry clients by concocting a threat of adverse legislation.

The election law, under which the state will help counties pay for electronic voting machines, was prompted by the vote-counting problems in Florida that clouded the results of last year's presidential contest.

The governor did not comment on the new ethics law. In remarks before the bill-signing ceremony, he stuck to his theme of Smart Growth, calling his 1997 initiative "a national model."

Since the passage of his original anti-sprawl bill, Glendening has added refinements and has made Smart Growth a top theme of his administration and of his year as chairman of the National Governors' Association.

As a result of bills signed yesterday, the state will:

Spend $500 million on public transportation during the next six years as part of an effort to double transit ridership by 2020.

Create the Community Legacy program, with initial funding of $11 million, to help revitalize targeted neighborhoods.

Establish a GreenPrint program to preserve large parcels of open space and to connect such tracts to encourage the movement of wildlife. The program, with $35 million in funding next year, has been billed as a supplement to Maryland's already aggressive land preservation initiatives.

Provide tax credits for people who donate land for preservation as open space, forests, watersheds and historic properties.

Set up an Office of Smart Growth, at a first-year cost of $405,000, to serve as a "one-stop" information center that individuals, businesses and local governments can turn to when considering anti-sprawl projects.

That bill has been opposed by conservatives who criticized the agency as unnecessary.

"Our government employment is 23 percent higher than the national average already. We don't need to create more government," said R. O .C. "Rocky" Worcester, president of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.

Other environment-related laws limit dredging in the port of Baltimore, provide tax credits for environmentally sensitive "green" buildings and require prompt reporting of sewage overflows, a response to the spill last year of 10 million gallons of contaminated water into the Baltimore harbor.

The governor also signed a bill proposed by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. that shifts much of the burden of the corporate income tax to out-of-state manufacturers. Many large Maryland companies backed the measure.

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