Balto. Co. Executive Thanks Lawmakers

April 17, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,

With a barbecue luncheon and a speech filled with plaudits, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. thanked the county's legislative delegation Thursday for its work during a fiscally challenging session in Annapolis.

"Our delegation worked hard, learned what was at stake and took critical action," Smith said at the conference held at Oregon Ridge Park. "This luncheon could have been canceled if they had not accomplished so many things."

State contributions to the county dropped by $37 million for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1, but the delegation did secure $25.4 million for school construction and $1.5 million for early childhood programs. The county will also receive $3 million for upgrades to Robert E. Lee Park, 415 acres of open space that is leased from Baltimore.

Given the grim economy, Smith said, the county did not ask for high-cost items, but concentrated instead on public safety and quality-of-life issues, such as newly enacted legislation that requires pawnbrokers to report transactions to police and another measure that allows the installation of speed cameras in school and work zones.

Another local bill that won approval before the General Assembly closed its 2009 session Monday gives the county authority to obtain from the FBI fingerprint background checks on prospective employees.

"The foundation of everything a government can do is public safety," Smith said. "People have to feel safe where they live, work and shop for jurisdictions to thrive."

Smith expressed disappointment at the failure of a bill that would require scrap-metal dealers to record the names and addresses of people selling them bronze, copper and other metals, and to report those sales to police. It has failed three times, but Smith said he'd try again next year.

The legislation would have been a valuable crime-fighting tool throughout the county, which has witnessed a 600 percent increase in thefts of metals in the past five years, he said. Thieves have stolen hundreds of catalytic converters from vehicles, bleachers from school stadiums and copper piping from construction sites.

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