ANNAPOLIS – Transportation and education funding tops Montgomery County legislators’ priority list for the 194th General Assembly that began Wednesday.
“Our goals are always the same,” said Delegate Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, chairman of the county’s House delegation. “More money for schools and roads.”
Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery, chairwoman of the Senate delegation, said, “Those two are our No. 1 priority.”
The priorities dovetail with Gov. Parris Glendening’s $750 million proposal for an expansion of public transportation and the continuation of the state’s $1.6 billion commitment for classroom construction.
In light of the attention that transportation issues are receiving, Montgomery County legislators have high hopes that they will receive funding to help relieve gridlock on their crowded roads.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, announced Tuesday that the House will propose a joint study with Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia to create a regional transportation authority.
Barve is glad that a dialogue will take place.
“We have the worst traffic on the East Coast of the United States,” he said, citing the Capital Beltway and other congested roads in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County also wants funding for education, specifically for schools and transportation for children with special needs.
“We want to make sure that Montgomery County gets its fair share for those kids,” said Barve.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan agreed that the county wants additional funds for school construction and roads. He added that he would like to see a package of bills passed to make drunken driving laws tougher in Maryland.
The county Senate delegation, which met Thursday afternoon, also is pushing to get several other bills drafted in time for the bill introduction deadline.
Among those Senate measures is one to transfer jurisdiction of county juvenile cases from district court to circuit court. Montgomery was the only Maryland county that did not transfer jurisdiction in 1979, according to Ruben.
Ruben sponsored the bill on behalf of the Montgomery County government, and it mirrors a statewide bill drafted by the state’s judges. Ruben is also a sponsor, with Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery, of another similar bill.
The Senate delegation decided to revise the original bill by calling for four judges to be appointed and ready to begin work by March 1, 2002. The law would take effect in July 2001. The original bill called for two judges to be appointed during this session and two during next session.
“I think it is going to be a wash as far as the financial situation is concerned,” said Ruben. “Over the years, we’ve saved the state a lot of money by having our juvenile judges on the district court” instead of circuit court, where the judges are paid higher salaries.
Another Senate priority is a bill to create exceptions to a prohibition against students having portable phones on public school property in Montgomery County. Montgomery senators also will push to raise the fine for red light traffic violations from $75 to $250.
Ruben said, “People haven’t gotten the message yet that you can’t run red lights.”
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