Local Issues Get Aired In Annapolis
By Todd Shields
Southern Maryland's state legislators are involved in the debates that preoccupy Annapolis this year, such as electricity deregulation.
But they also are tending to the home front with bills tailored to local circumstances.
Among other things, they want to ensure that tobacco farmers get a good share of the proceeds Maryland may reap from the tobacco litigation settlement.
Area legislators also are pushing a bill to make March 14 Louis Goldstein Day, after Calvert County's favorite son; another to memorialize the boyhood home in Charles County of polar explorer Matthew Henson; and two measures from St. Mary's and Charles counties that aim to improve safety for children using school buses.
The tobacco funds bill was introduced Friday. In it, legislators seek 5 percent of the $4.5 billion that Maryland may reap over 25 years from the tobacco settlement -- or an average of about $9 million annually. The bill is sponsored by the Southern Maryland delegation as a whole.
The money would pass through the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland -- a regional planning body with an annual budget of about $1 million -- before reaching roughly 1,200 tobacco farmers.
Tri-County Council executive director David Jenkins said the council and farmers still are working out a detailed proposal for spending the money. Jenkins indicated that farmers more heavily dependent upon tobacco would receive greater funding.
Tobacco farmers fear the settlement will dampen demand for their crop. Tobacco accounts for two-thirds of Southern Maryland's agricultural revenue.
The Goldstein bill would mark the late Calvert County resident's birthday on state calendars. It would not create a holiday. The measure passed the House of Delegates 134 to 0, and lawmakers expect it to receive similar treatment in the Senate.
Goldstein, the longtime state comptroller, was first elected delegate for Calvert County in 1938. He served in political office continuously from 1947 until his death last year on July 3, at age 85.
The Calvert County delegation also is seeking $50,000 in state funding to help with the restoration of the Wm. B. Tennison. The historic bugeye boat was built in 1899 as part of the Solomons Island oyster fleet and now is used by the Calvert Marine Museum for passenger excursions.
The Calvert delegation also wants $100,000 to help establish a low-cost, primary health-care clinic in the Chesapeake Beach-North Beach area.
Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's and Calvert) introduced legislation to restrict 16- and 17-year-olds with new driver's licenses from carrying any passengers under 18. The restriction, with exceptions for relatives, would last six months.
Dyson has introduced similar measures unsuccessfully in previous Assembly sessions. This year, he said, he was moved to try again by the Jan. 27 traffic accident that killed three Patuxent High School students in southern Calvert County. Witnesses said the teenage driver of the car was playfully chasing another car in the moments before the crash.
"I was hoping I didn't have to put it in this year, but we had that terrible accident," Dyson said. "Something needs to be done. They're too young out there. . . . I don't think they can make the judgment calls."
Several proposed measures aim to improve the safety of children riding school buses.
Charles County legislators introduced a bill that would require school buses to stop in the roadway and put on their warning flashers when picking up or discharging children. Buses now may use the shoulder of the road for those procedures.
Last May an 11-year-old boy was struck by a pickup truck and killed as he stepped out from in front of a Charles County school bus that had let him off on the shoulder of Route 225.
Del. John F. Wood Jr. (D-St. Mary's) introduced a bill requiring school bus drivers to report to police the license number and other details of cars that pass their buses when its red lights are flashing. Police would then ticket the owner of the vehicle.
In St. Mary's County, vehicles pass school buses with red lights flashing one to three times a day, according to school officials.
Charles County lawmakers joined several other legislators in seeking $150,000 to acquire the birthplace of Nanjemoy native Matthew Henson, and to plan and construct a memorial.
Henson, an African American, accompanied Robert E. Peary on eight Arctic expeditions, including the one in 1909 during which they claimed to be the first people to reach the North Pole.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company