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More for Schools, But Less for Roads

The Montgomery County Council will now have to decide whether it plans to use county funds to assure the school system's requests are fully funded. Council leaders say it is unlikely they will be able to come up with the money.

Under Ehrlich's budget, as approved by the General Assembly, the county will also lose about $2.5 million in transportation dollars and $6 million in land preservation funds.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), left, debates Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-Somerset) in the Assembly's final hours. (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

_____Maryland Government_____
Strong Showing For School Board Bill (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Frederick Requests Mostly Unheeded (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Duncan's Faith May Not Follow Church (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Assembly Session Marked by Partisan Discord (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Full Report

Overall, however, it appears Montgomery County will benefit from the state's improving budget outlook.

Montgomery College received about $4 million for projects at its Rockville and Takoma Park campus. The Universities at Shady Grove also received $52 million to construct a third building.

The Music Center at Strathmore received $750,000, about half of what county leaders had hoped for, to help pay for final construction costs. Several local organizations, including Imagination Stage and the Adventure Theatre of Montgomery County, also received state aid. The General Assembly also approved $750,000 to help renovate the old Blair High School auditorium in Silver Spring for use as a community arts theater. However, the money must be matched by either the county or through private donations.

A flurry of bills introduced early in the session had threatened to result in major changes to how commissioners were appointed to the water and sewer commission.

A half-dozen bills were introduced to reorganize the agency for Montgomery and Prince George's counties after a year of turmoil, including the firing of its general manager, the resignation of three commissioners from Montgomery, and continued questions of fiscal and ethical stewardship.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) raised the prospect of a state takeover of the agency. But Miller's warning, which Duncan pledged to oppose, never materialized. Legislators from Prince George's County held up several other reform proposals.

"There have been a number of personnel changes [at WSSC] which put off the urgency for reforms we had hoped for in the fall," said Del. Carol S. Petzold (D-Montgomery), vicechairman of the county's House delegation.

Legislators also approved a proposal by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Montgomery) to allow police to set up speed monitoring equipment in school and residential zones. The gear can capture speeding motorists' license plate information so tickets of up to $40 can be mailed to the drivers.

The debate over how to control the county's deer population divided Montgomery County's legislative delegation.

Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D) unsuccessfully tried to add Montgomery to the list of counties where deer can be hunted on Sunday. The proposal was blocked by the county's House delegation, whose members decided they first wanted to gauge public reaction to the change.

Efforts by the Duncan administration to relax some of the county's liquor laws were also approved, including a bill to establish one-day licenses for wine festivals and another to permit liquor establishments to be located near public libraries. Both measures were designed to boost economic development.

For a complete listing of local bills, go to www.montgomerycountydelegation.com.

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