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Senate to Consider Option For Path Alongside Connector

By John Wagner
Thursday, March 31, 2005; Page B04

The Maryland Senate today will consider adding a bicycle and pedestrian path to a seven-mile segment of the intercounty connector.

Sen. Leo E. Green (D-Prince George's) plans to offer an amendment to an intercounty connector financing bill that he said would represent "a partial victory" in a skirmish over whether to include a path alongside the 18-mile highway that would connect Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Efforts to build a path have been resisted by the state Department of Transportation because of the estimated $100 million cost. Green said his measure would cost less because the path would be restricted to right of way that already is part of the $2.4 billion project.

Green said he would prefer a bicycle and pedestrian path along the entire route, but "this is what I'm told I can get." Given the cost of the highway, "if we can't afford $100 million for a bike path and pedestrian safety, it's a sad commentary," he said.

Green's amendment also would require the department to study construction of the path along the remainder of the roadway.

He is attempting to add the measure to a bill that lays out a financing plan for the project. The House plan, which already has passed, does not include the path.

Gubernatorial Nudging

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) again urged House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's) to schedule a vote on a bill to make it a felony to intimidate a witness in a criminal case.

The bill, a key element of the governor's legislative agenda this year, has stalled in Vallario's committee with less than two weeks left in the General Assembly's 90-day session.

Ehrlich held a news conference with Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy yesterday to continue his public campaign to pressure Vallario into scheduling a vote.

"It needs to escape the chairman's desk," Ehrlich said.

Jessamy described a case her office had scheduled for this week that fell apart because a gunshot victim was shot again in an alley. She said the second shooting was an apparent attempt to silence a witness.

A bill "with some teeth in it" could provide a first step to combating efforts by criminals to intimidate witnesses, she said.

Campaign Financing

The House of Delegates has effectively killed legislation to create a system of public financing for legislative campaigns.

During floor debate yesterday, the bill was sent back to the Ways and Means Committee, which approved it earlier in the session. The Senate has not acted on similar legislation.

The bill sought to limit the influence of corporations and other deep-pocketed donors by providing public funding to candidates who agreed to spending limits. Modeled after efforts in Maine and Arizona, limits in the bill would have taken effect in Maryland with the 2010 election.

Staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.

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