Local Leaders Outline Legislative Priorities
Maryland's three largest jurisdictions -- Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore -- addressed their legislative priorities yesterday as the General Assembly convened for its 90-day legislative session.
Montgomery County's top priority is securing additional education and transportation funding. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he is working with lawmakers to seek $132.8 million for public school construction in the county, $37.3 million for construction of new facilities at Montgomery College as well as an increase in funding for adult education programs.
Leggett, who attended yesterday's opening ceremony, also said securing state funds for transportation projects -- such as the construction of the Purple Line and improvements to Wisconsin Avenue near the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda -- also is a top priority.
"Getting education funding for our children and more funding for transportation are my priorities for this year's session," Leggett said in a news release yesterday. "I pledge to work with our state legislative delegation, the County Council and our governor to ensure that Montgomery County gets needed increases in school construction aid, higher education and critical transportation needs."
With eight senators and 24 delegates, Montgomery has the state's largest delegation and the county's votes carry significant weight in the legislature.
Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who also visited the State House yesterday, said his county is focused on maintaining the level of state spending in Prince George's amid budget cuts.
"I think the totality of everything is kind of a 'hold-on' session, to make sure we don't have any more erosion in funds from the state," Johnson said.
Baltimore Mayor Shelia Dixon (D), the city's police commissioner and state's attorney as well as members of Baltimore's legislative delegation held a news conference yesterday calling on the General Assembly to pass tougher state laws directed at individuals who use illegal guns.
"We need help," Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said. "This isn't a battle against gun ownership. It's making people accountable and holding bad guys accountable for the things they do."
The city delegation also is prioritizing further expansions of health care programs for the state's neediest residents.
Del. Curtis S. Anderson (D), chairman of the Baltimore delegation, cheered, "Let the fight begin!"
"This represents effective, aggressive leadership, not sitting back waiting for the problems to bite us in the butt," Anderson said.
-- Philip Rucker
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