It was a year when legislators were looking for some visible projects to show off to the folks back home. More than $50 million in bond money was divvied up into enough pork to give Bob Evans fits of ecstasy. And an election-year gasoline tax passed through a key House committee only after the transportation department promised the revenues would go to long-awaited local road and bridge projects, like the delayed construction of the I-370 interchange in Montgomery County.
In the end, local governments made out like bandits.
Anne Arundel County got a bond bill for a new building at Loyola College. Western Maryland got a bond bill for a Hagerstown stadium. Baltimore County got money to preserve an undeveloped peninsula near the Dundee and Saltpeter creeks.
And Baltimore city was the luckiest recipient of all. The city ended up with scores of bond bills and enabling legislation to begin setting up economic enterprise zones, and scored a major coup by persuading an initially skeptical legislature to extend by one year a bond authorization for Memorial Stadium, even though Colts owner Robert Irsay has refused to sign a new long-term lease.
Local governments also asked for--and received--approval from the state to continue granting exclusive franchises to cable television firms. Under a Jan. 13 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the localities feared they could be vulnerable to antitrust suits if they continued the common practice of awarding franchises to single firms. This enabling legislation, exempting localities from the Sherman antitrust laws, was a top priority for Montgomery County. That county is set to award its own exclusive cable franchise this summer.