ANNAPOLIS – Southern Maryland legislators hope to claim a piece of the state’s $925 million surplus for education because their region’s population is rapidly increasing.
“If you really want to leave a mark, you do it in education,” said Sen. Roy P. Dyson, D-St. Mary’s, the Senate chairman for the Southern Maryland delegation.
Funding for school construction will be in demand throughout the southern counties, which have seen record growth lately. For example, Calvert is the fastest growing county in the state, Dyson said. And in Charles County growth has led to such school overcrowding problems that the county Board of Commissioners recently limited the number of new houses that could be built there.
Delegate Van T. Mitchell, D-Charles, the House chairman for the Southern Maryland delegation, said his delegation will work closely with the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland on legislation involving agriculture and the Smart Growth initiative, Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s program to curb residential and commercial sprawl.
Mitchell called the three regions “the rural delegation,” since they share a common interest in infrastructure funding for rural areas of the state.
Mitchell expects school construction, heath insurance reforms, and restructuring of electric cooperatives to rank high on the agenda this year.
“I think we’ll do a lot with health care. Surplus is huge, so I think we’ll see some school construction funding,” Mitchell said.
Previous efforts to change the power supply systems in Maryland are likely to surface again this year. The Public Service Commission took steps last year to encourage competition and completely deregulate the industry, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and Choptank Electric Cooperative, based in Denton, are hoping to expand their business this year to include security alarms, hot water heaters, and other non-electric products, but the private power suppliers are likely to oppose such a move, according to Mitchell.
Crime and the environment also are of concern for Delegate George W. Owings III, D-Calvert. He also plans to tackle issues such as improving health insurance for children and imposing mandatory five-year sentences for repeat felony offenders.
Delegate Samuel C. Linton, D-Charles, who recently moved from the Ways & Means Committee to the Appropriations Committee, declined to announce a specific agenda for the year, but he suggested that distributing the budget surplus will be challenging.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Linton said.