Commuters on I-70 will soon have an easier drive.
The State Highway Administration will begin opening its expansion project on the highway Saturday in a move that will benefit more than 80,000 drivers who travel the road each day.
Expanded westbound lanes on I-70 between Md. 144 and Md. 85 are slated to open this weekend. Eastbound lanes will open Oct. 12, but the exact opening date may be affected by bad weather, according to the SHA.
For the past 2 1/2 years, crews have been working to double the width of the highway, adding a third through lane and an auxiliary lane in each direction to improve traffic flow.
The project also included replacing the I-70 bridges over South Street and realigning the eastbound I-70 ramps to allow wider turns.
Several elected officials were pleased with the highway project, including Delegate Galen Clagett.
“I’m very happy that we are moving forward on this project,” Clagett said. “It has been a wonderful addition to the county and the city and goes to show that Frederick does get its fair share of state and federal transportation funding.”
Gov. Martin O'Malley highlighted the public safety and economic possibilities of the improvement.
“Investing in infrastructure statewide is crucial to improving safety, saving time and spurring economic development,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Thanks to Maryland’s Congressional Delegation, this project will accomplish all three goals by improving travel on this critical east-west route.”
Drivers should allow extra travel time through the area as workers prepare for traffic pattern changes on I-70 in Frederick starting Friday.
The SHA will be enacting single-lane closures even after the new lanes are open to allow crews to finish final surface paving. Lanes may be closed over the next few weeks between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Paving is expected to be complete by the second week of November.
The expansion was a $45 million project and more than 90 percent federally funded according to the SHA. Corman Construction, of Annapolis Junction, won the contract to do the road work.
FREDERICK, Md. — State Delegate Galen Clagett says he’s running for mayor of Frederick.
The 70-year-old Democrat told The Frederick News-Post (http://bit.ly/WTdKII ) Thursday that he’ll run for the mayoral seat currently held by Republican Randy McClement.
The primary election is Sept. 10. The general election is Nov. 5.
Clagett is midway through his third term in the House of Delegates. He said in 2011 that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term.
Clagett heads the Frederick-based property-management firm Clagett Enterprises. He previously worked as a public school teacher and administrator.
Delegate looks to ‘end career down here doing policy work’
Maryland Delegate Galen Clagett is vacating his post on the powerful committee that handles state spending and shifting to one that deals with economic policies.
Clagett, D-District 3A, has held a seat on the House Appropriations Committee since 2003 and said he was looking for a change of pace as his time in the Maryland General Assembly draws to a close.
"I've done budgets for 10 years. And I'm not going to run again, so I thought it would be nice to ... end my career down here doing policy work," Clagett said Thursday after the switch was announced at an organizational meeting for the House Economic Matters Committee.
The move will also position Clagett to head up a newly forming work group focused on economic development and jobs.
Clagett said his departure from the Appropriations Committee, which works on the state budget, will not damage Frederick County's ability to secure funding for brick-and-mortar projects.
"That was the one thing I asked as I left, that we would be protected on the capital side, and I was assured by the speaker ... and by the capital committee chairperson that would be the case," Clagett said. "I wouldn't have gone had I thought it would cause the county to suffer losses."
When Clagett leaves the House of Delegates, his successor might have a high chance of reclaiming Frederick County's spot on appropriations, he said. The odds are particularly good, he said, if that person is Carol Krimm, who is a member of his legislative staff and also serves on the city of Frederick's Board of Aldermen.
Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young said he learned of the reassignment in a Monday conversation with Clagett and doesn't have any major concerns that the county's influence in state spending decisions will weaken; Clagett still has deep contacts in appropriations and will be able to lobby for the county.
Of particular interest to Young is landing money for projects to build or renovate local schools.
Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4, who serves on the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee, agreed that Clagett's move will not mean less capital funding. And although appropriations is a sought-after assignment, lawmakers in economic matters also occupy coveted posts, he said.
Clagett's experience as a business owner will serve him well on economic matters, according to the House speaker.
"Because of his extensive business background, I've asked Delegate Clagett to serve on the Economic Matters Committee and to lead a business engagement workgroup in the House of Delegates," said House Speaker Michael Busch in a statement.
The group this session will discuss ways to foster economic development and work with the business community on job creation, Busch went on to say.
Clagett's reassignment came as a surprise to Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, who said he wasn't worried about the change, though he had in past years appreciated having a local presence on the Appropriations Committee.
With the addition of Clagett, the Economic Matters Committee, which also includes Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, will expand from 23 to 24 members.
So far, no one has been named to replace Clagett on the Appropriations Committee, said its chairman, Delegate Norman Conway. Delegate Guy Guzzone, D-District 13, will take over for Clagett as chairman of the public safety and administration subcommittee, said Conway, D-District 38B.
Officials note desire to keep language ‘as simple as possible’
The future of Frederick County's government will hinge on how voters answer a simple, 18-word question come November.
"Do you approve the adoption of the Charter of Frederick County proposed by the Frederick County Charter Board?"
If the yes votes outnumber the no votes, the county will gain a new form of government, led by an executive and seven council members rather than a board of five commissioners. County residents got an early look at the pivotal question Monday when the Maryland State Board of Elections unveiled the language that will appear on the ballot this fall.
Several staunch backers of charter government said they appreciated the brevity of the question, especially with the laundry list of ballot measures that will confront voters on Election Day -- including legalization of same-sex marriage, allowing qualifying illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition and gambling expansion.
"Voters will have to do a lot of reading, so we want to keep (the question) as simple as possible," said Maryland Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, a longtime supporter of charter government for Frederick County.
County attorney John Mathias, who crafted the question, said he aimed for clarity and to stay consistent with similar questions from past elections. His wording closely resembles language used in Cecil County in the 2010 elections and in a 1991 Frederick County special election that killed an attempted switch to the charter system.
Clagett helped write the charter that fizzled in the early 1990s. He and others hope the county isn't headed for a repeat in November.
About 28 percent of the county's registered voters hit the polls for the 1991 special election.
Because of the low turnout, a small but determined group of opponents was able to derail the charter effort, Clagett said.
Officials expect a much better showing this fall, said Ken Coffey, chairman of the 12-person board that created the drafted charter now under consideration.
"We'll get a good feel about what the public thinks about charter government," Coffey said.
The charter board -- made up of nine voting members and three alternates -- this month delivered to commissioners the finished 25-page document that if approved would act as Frederick County's constitution.
Coffey said he thinks local residents will recognize the benefits of making a change. Moving to the charter system would give Frederick County more autonomy and allow it to engage in discussions between the governor and county executives, he said.
But the simplicity of the ballot question places more pressure on charter supporters to reach people before they enter the voting booth, said Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B.
In general, question wording is a crucial factor in a vote result, according to state Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4.
"For many people, the language is the only research they'll do on the issue," Brinkley said.
However, Brinkley said he liked the question Mathias wrote because it is direct and clear-cut.
Mathias considered including a short explanation of charter government in the question, he said, but decided against it, following past examples by keeping the statement simple. Any summary of the 25-page draft would be so incomplete that it could open the door to perceptions that the question was biased, he said.
The Frederick County Board of Elections certified the ballot language that Mathias developed.
Work is already under way to inform voters about the proposed governmental switch. The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, teachers union and building industry representatives are among the local groups that have joined the Charter Education Coalition.
David Rogers, the coalition's executive director, said his group's mission is not affected by what will appear on the ballot. The organization's goal is not to advocate for the passage or failure of charter, but to encourage county residents "to make a well-informed and wise decision," he said in an email.
On August 13, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) announced their much anticipated legislative scorecard for 2012.
Delegate Galen Clagett, who represents District 3A in Frederick County, earned another 100% rating for his work to protect consumer rights through his support of housing, health, and identity theft bills in the 2012 regular session and May special session. MCRC’s scorecard graded legislators on their floor votes on eight key consumer protection bills and their committee votes on a larger group of consumer rights bills. Delegate Clagett is the only House member from Frederick County to receive a perfect score.
From their web site:
“The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition is a nonprofit organization that advances and protects fairness and justice for Maryland consumers through research, education and advocacy.”
For more information on this important organization, go to http://marylandconsumers.org/
For a complete listing of legislature ratings, go to: http://marylandconsumers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ZRG8qxbH5WI%3d&tabid=38
We're wondering if Delegate Frank Turner, a Howard County Democrat and chairman of a gambling subcommittee, might have been pulling Delegate Kathy Afzali's leg about the city of Frederick being the preferred location for a sixth Maryland casino.
Turner, in a conversation he apparently had with the Frederick Republican delegate, said that Frederick "would be a preferred destination for a casino." Afzali reported that in a letter she sent this past week to fellow local lawmakers.
Forget the National Harbor in Prince George's County. They want a casino in Frederick.
We'd urge some caution here and echo Delegate Galen Clagett, who countered in his own letter: "Any reaction to Delegate Afzali's letter is strictly premature. Please let's all cool our jets and give the governor's work group an opportunity to do its work."
Clagett, who represents one of two House of Delegates seats in the city, is a member of the Democratic leadership. We'd aver he's more in the know about casino plans than Afzali. If he's prompting an application of brakes here, we'd best pay attention. The idea of dumping a slots emporium in Frederick has surfaced occasionally over the years from the Maryland General Assembly. It's wise not to take this latest news too seriously.
Consider a couple of stumbling blocks to put this amazing claim in perspective:
Primarily, take Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who happily held up a vote on the state's budget to press for a casino at National Harbor. If the guy is prepared to bring the State House to a grinding halt over his pet project and force the governor to call a special fall session specifically on that issue, is it really likely he'll allow Frederick to supplant Prince George's? Don't bet on it.
House Speaker Mike Busch: When it comes to the House, no one dislikes gambling more than Busch, and he's the one who calls the shots in the House. A gambling work group made up of House and Senate lawmakers fell apart in shambles over the location this week when its three House members walked out, leaving Gov. Martin O'Malley scratching his head as to why. He needn't look further than Busch, who no doubt gave the order to abandon ship. (The normally press-friendly speaker was noticeably unavailable after the Wednesday walkout.) This makes it unlikely that the state will hold a special session on the issue or that it'll appear on November's ballot. The next shot will be in 2014.
Then there's Rocky Gap. News broke Tuesday in The (Baltimore) Sun that after years of losing money, Maryland will hand over the state-run Western Maryland resort to a private firm -- one with a casino license and plans to put in 1,000 slot machines.
Evitts Resort LLC has planned a mid-2014 opening with a bank of 850 slots in its first year and 150 more in its second, according to The Sun. We can only imagine how delighted Evitts would be to have competition less than two hours away. Let's face it, lawmakers are going to prefer (and be lobbied hard to favor) a viable business with solid plans over what is, at the moment, only an idea.
Nope, Maryland's sixth casino touching down in Frederick just doesn't make sense to us. It's best not to get too knotted up about the possibility.
A Maryland delegate this week sent out a news release decrying "scare tactics" used to resist a possible state directive to create a fee for financing watershed cleanup efforts.
Local leaders have denounced a bill passed this session by the Maryland General Assembly that would require them to levy the charge. As they fought the fee, commissioners cited estimates that county costs of complying with a stormwater management plan could top $2.35 billion by 2025.
Although the county has since moved away from that figure -- and indicated that the state estimates county costs could be closer to $200 million -- Delegate Galen Clagett released a statement Monday about the stance local officials have taken.
"Let's throw out all these scare tactics," he later said in a phone interview.
The bill applies to the state's 10 largest jurisdictions, and local commissioners have objected that making some counties set up a new fee and letting others off the hook is unfair. But Clagett said the difference makes sense because it targets the jurisdictions that send the most runoff pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.
His news release pointed out that the newly approved stormwater legislation allows the county to determine the size of a fee and does not make reference to property taxes. In addition, the bill does not require the county to meet stormwater cleanup goals, but only to craft a fee that would "begin to address" the runoff issues.
Commissioner Paul Smith said he doesn't think the county has been alarmist and that, as local stormwater plans continue to develop, officials have quoted the best cost estimates they have at the time. While he said he didn't take issue with the facts in Clagett's release, he said he does see linkages between requiring the county to charge a new fee and asking it to shoulder watershed cleanup expenses.
"We are worried," he said.
With the help of a quarter million dollars from the state, local officials have started to lay a financial foundation for a long-discussed downtown hotel and conference center.
Plans to situate lodging and meeting space near Carroll Creek have been in the works for some time, and now, the City of Frederick will have some funds for land acquisition, design and engineering. In the 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers agreed to set aside $250,000 for the first stages of the building effort. Approval for the funding came as the city awaits the completion of a study examining whether the local market is hungry for such a facility, according to city officials.
Feedback from the group running the study has been positive, said Josh Russin, executive assistant to Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, but a full report won't likely be ready until May.
Major employers in the area are certainly eager to see the facility built, said Ric Adams, president of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, and he added that the state dollars are a big step forward.
"Hurray!" he said. "It gets us some seed money to start ahead."
Russin said the city must match funds with the state, and McClement has accounted for this in his proposed fiscal 2013 budget. Because of this, the hotel project now could have a combined total of $500,000 for its design phase, slated to begin in July and end two years later, according to documents supporting the request for state dollars. As a vociferous advocate for the project, Delegate Galen Clagett pushed to include the funding in the Maryland capital budget for fiscal 2013.--
Not everyone believes the money necessarily signals that the project is on a roll, however.
"I'm pleased that Galen was able to get the money. ... Hopefully they (city leaders) will find a good use for it. I hope it's not used in a way that hurts us in the future," Sen. Ron Young said.
Before the building site or developer has been chosen, spending the money wisely could present a challenge to city officials, he said.
The city hasn't yet decided how to divide the money, according to Earl Robbins, who chairs a team of project stakeholders. They also have yet to nail down key deadlines, such as the date for selecting the building location. However, they hope to solicit information soon about various downtown properties that could be the future site for a 200-room hotel with at least 14,000 square feet of meeting space, he said.
And having money on hand for engineering and design will prompt more forward motion, Clagett argued.
But not all of Clagett's efforts met with success this session.
He also sponsored legislation to raise the county's hotel tax rate from 3 to 5 percent and allocate some of the added revenue to the city for capital projects such as the hotel and conference center. However, the idea drew opposition from other members of the county delegation, such as Young, who said taxing local hotels to help support a competing facility was unfair.
Adams said he thinks a downtown facility that would draw large conferences would have a spillover effect that would benefit other establishments. Clagett agreed.
"We know one of the economic engines for tourism in the county is Frederick city," Clagett said, expressing frustration that some of his initiatives this session fizzled. "Sometimes I have to scratch my old bald head and say, 'What's the motivation here?'"
Clagett said he plans to reintroduce the hotel tax bill next session.
Frederick County has revised costs of a state requirement to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay from $2,000 per year for county taxpayers to $181.
But county commissioners still are resistant to asking residents to pay up.
“Everyone thinks Frederick County should be dancing in the streets over this, but we are not,” said Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R).
State lawmakers passed a bill this month giving Frederick County and nine other jurisdictions the ability to levy fees to pay the costs of reducing pollution generated by stormwater runoff. The bill goes into effect July 1. The 10 jurisdictions are the largest in the state, with the most concentrated development.
A majority of Frederick County commissioners agreed Friday they do not want to raise taxes to pay for the mandate.
“I don’t plan to raise the tax rate 6 cents, and I don’t plan to collect a fee,” Young said. “I do plan ... to say, let’s go to court.”
Commissioner Kirby Delauter (R) said complying with the law only serves to “legitimize it.” But Commissioner Paul Smith (R) cautioned the county has to challenge the law in court.
“You can’t just ignore it,” he said.
If the county ignored the law, the state could force the issue and take the money, said Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick. Clagett was the only member of the Frederick County delegation to vote in favor of the law.
The state, he said, is trying to stop trouble, not cause trouble.
“If the state does not move — and counties are chartered by the state — sanctions will come down on us from federal government, and we are trying to avoid that scenario by moving in the direction the federal government mandates,” Clagett said.
Reducing stormwater pollutants from parking lots, buildings and other paved surfaces is part of a state plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Stormwater accounts for about 20 percent of the pollution to the Bay. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered states in the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed to adopt similar cleanup plans, and some states, like Pennsylvania, are challenging the mandate in court.
“We want our legal options explored,” Young said.
He predicates a possible judicial challenge on the fact that only 10 jurisdictions are required to pay the costs, and “the approach Maryland has taken in relation to what other states are doing,” he said.
The other affected jurisdictions, Young said, still are dissecting the impact of the bill, while Frederick County has been on top of the issue for some time.
“We feel our numbers are more accurate than anyone else’s numbers,” he said.
Frederick County initially reported the retrofits would cost $2.35 billion, or $2,000 per county property owner. Further analysis revealed the county could opt for less costly methods to cut the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus. Those changes include planting tree, grass or meadow buffers to reduce stormwater flow to waterways that discharge into the Bay. The revised costs are about $109.6 million, according to Shannon Moore, manager of the county’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources.
Moore told county leaders Friday there are a lot of “inconsistencies” from the Maryland Department of the Environment regarding the state’s plan to restore the Bay. MDE is the state agency charged with ensuring provisions of the federal Clean Water Act are met.
Clagett said the bill authorizes the jurisdictions to collect fees, does not dictate a specific level of fees, and does not reference property taxes.
“What we have is a whole lot of hype about what the bill does,” he said.
The stormwater costs represent a portion of the total pricetag for Frederick County. Other costs include $186 million for septic upgrades; $118 million for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, and an unknown cost to farmers. Costs do not include those that will be borne by municipalities, Moore wrote in an email.
ANNAPOLIS -- Upgrading platforms and adding weekend MARC train runs are up for discussion as state lawmakers begin brainstorming about the rail system that carries hundreds of Frederick County residents to work each day.
As gas prices soar, the rail line that links Brunswick and Frederick to the nation's capital grows in importance, state officials say. Last month, the Maryland Transit Administration announced the number of commuters using the system had spiked to record-breaking levels, with MARC train ridership up 6.1 percent over the same time last year.
Maryland legislators hope strengthening the transportation service through a newly formed coalition will power the local economy and offer more commuters an escape from gridlocked traffic.
Delegates Galen Clagett and Al Carr, whose constituents board the MARC trains to travel from Frederick and Montgomery counties to D.C., organized the work group to discuss short- and long-term improvements to the rail system.
"We're starting the wheels in motion, and once we (home) in on targets, then we'll ... pressure for funding," Clagett said.
Lawmakers representing districts crossed by MARC lines will gather a couple of times during the legislative session, which is scheduled to end April 9, and then will hold regular meetings after the Maryland General Assembly adjourns.
In the near future, Clagett said, he'd like to see platforms upgraded, more frequent trips and extended service times. The last Brunswick line train now leaves Union Station at 7:15 p.m.
Offering train service on weekends could draw more people into Frederick city to shop and dine, Clagett said.
Increasing system reliability would also boost ridership, said Delegate Michael Hough, whose district includes the Brunswick and Point of Rocks stations. Heat restrictions and signal problems can cause lengthy delays. As someone who uses the MARC system to travel to Washington, Hough said he has sometimes gotten home more than an hour late.
Hough, who plans to participate in the work group, said he is glad lawmakers are starting to discuss MARC improvements with stakeholders and state agencies.
"The MARC is heavily used, and the MARC for a long time has (had) a lot of problems," said Hough, although he added the system is still a good alternative to congested highways. "It's an easy commute. You can take a nap, read a book ... stress-free versus trying to drive in bumper-to-bumper."
In a news release announcing the work group's formation, Clagett said he would reach out to transportation advisory groups and chambers of commerce in Frederick County, which daily sends about 1,600 people onto the MARC train from its four stations.
Building a new platform at the Point of Rocks stop would enhance service to local travelers, said Michael Proffitt, a member of the Frederick Area Committee for Transportation.
Near the Point of Rocks stop, the Brunswick line splits, sending one branch toward Frederick and the other to Martinsburg, W.Va. Because of the track design, only trains coming from West Virginia pick up or drop off passengers at the Point of Rocks station; the trains from Frederick pass without stopping.
Limited funding, however, will present a problem when trying to address some of these concerns, said John Hovatter, director of MARC train service.
Plans to build a new platform in Point of Rocks fizzled a couple years ago after cost estimates added up to millions of dollars.
Proffitt's committee is looking for ways to breathe life into the project by attracting funding and decreasing costs. He hopes Clagett's work group will help bring the issue to the forefront, he said.
"The (Brunswick) line ... is a major commuter spine, and the key is to get that on the radar screen and get it treated as such," he said.
Effort would bring higher education to area workforce
ANNAPOLIS -- Local lawmakers and business leaders are working to launch a higher education center in Frederick as a way of buoying the area's expanding bioscience industry.
Offering high-level courses in life sciences and technology would draw and nurture the businesses that have powered local job creation in recent years, supporters of the idea say.
"The more dynamic the intellectual environment is, the more attractive the community becomes to biotech companies looking to locate in Frederick," said David Bufter, chief administrative officer with SAIC-Frederick and a lead supporter of the effort to bring the education program to the area.
Some employees at companies such as SAIC-Frederick now drive more than an hour to take the master's- or doctorate-level courses that are essential to staying current in a rapidly evolving field, he said.
A work group of government, business and education representatives plugged away through 2011 on the project to bring the classes to Frederick. Efforts are now at a crucial juncture.
Last week, group members sent the Maryland Higher Education Commission a list of five courses that focus groups identified as those most needed locally. They asked the commission to bless the kickoff of a bidding process so colleges and universities can compete to offer the instruction.
The group's goal is to offer the first courses this fall, Bufter indicated.
Delegate Galen Clagett, who has been heavily involved in the project, said he hopes a center will support local job growth.
"Those industries are major industries for Frederick County and Frederick city," Clagett said. "We need to offer everything we can in the way of educational opportunities to employees."
The major employers group of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce took a lead role in the effort, and Frederick Community College has also acted as a key player, he said.
While partners have been working for months on the project, Clagett stressed that key aspects of the plan have yet to be hammered out.
The work group has examined a number of models for a higher education center, including the Universities at Shady Grove and the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center of Maryland in Aberdeen. At the Aberdeen center, Harford Community College coordinates academic programs and maintains the facilities, and other institutions offer faculty.
While current efforts are a long way from this, providing advanced education in Frederick would boost local businesses that rely on a highly trained workforce, said Jim Racheff, CEO of a Frederick-based information and management sciences company.
"Access to educated, quality individuals is one of the primary forces in a company's success. It runs off of brainpower," Racheff said of his industry.
Frederick has emerged as a strategic location for bioscience corporations because of its proximity to government agencies and federal contracts. Since 2004, the number of bioscience companies in the Frederick area has about doubled, reaching 76 by February 2011, according to city data.
The research and development expansion has fueled job creation in the area. In recent years, a huge chunk -- about 56 percent -- of new jobs in Frederick were professional, scientific and technical positions, the city's economic development department reported.
"We are becoming a small but very nice center for biotech companies. ... I see that as an area to keep growing," said Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County lawmaker who has also been involved in the project.
In roundtable discussions with members of the bioscience industry, Young said. He found advanced education opportunities were high on the list of priorities.
Clagett, Afzali differ on bill proposal
ANNAPOLIS -- State lawmakers representing Frederick County have split over a proposal to increase the local hotel tax rate and loosen up funds to bring lodging and a conference center to Carroll Creek.
Delegate Galen Clagett has sponsored state legislation to raise the county tax on room rentals from 3 to 5 percent. He and supporters of the bill believe the change would yield new revenues for city projects at little cost to locals.
Others argue Clagett's bill needs further vetting; hotel owners object that the legislation would have them paying to give a new competitor a foothold.
A pair of Frederick County delegates said last week they are working to ground their colleague's bill, which is now in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Clagett said he knew his legislation would face resistance.
"No matter how you explain taxes, there are people in our delegation who are not going to vote for any tax, even though it's imposed on people visiting and not on our own people," he said. "And by the way, those people (visitors) use our services ... so it helps to pay for the amenities they use."
The delegate said he has gained backing from the Frederick city mayor, as well as the county tourism group and chamber of commerce.
John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County, testified Feb. 21 in support of the legislation.
The tourism council envisioned county commissioners rather than state lawmakers raising the tax, Fieseler said, but the extra cash could breathe life into important city projects, such as a downtown hotel and conference center.
The bill's critics disagree on how to squelch the proposal.
Delegate Kathy Afzali last week urged fellow members of the Frederick County Legislative Delegation to compose a letter opposing the bill. Afzali, who is on the ways and means committee, said she cannot support legislation that the county commissioners oppose.
Delegate Michael Hough agreed to add his name to the correspondence.
Sen. David Brinkley, who chairs the delegation, said he does not like the bill, but he would not sign on to a letter. However, he said he would stop the legislation in its tracks if it arrives in his side of the Maryland General Assembly.
"I can kill the bill in my committee. I would have thought (Afzali) could kill it in her committee," said Brinkley, who is on the Senate budget and taxation committee.
Afzali responded that she could kill the bill but wanted to make sure the whole delegation was on board.
Commissioners President Blaine Young said his board thinks officials should build consensus among hotel and motel owners before talking about raising tax rates.
The county recently sent a questionnaire to 26 hotel and motel operators in the county to get their take on the proposal. Many of the 14 respondents reported they did not like the plan to raise revenues for the downtown hotel and conference center project.
"Why should we have to collect money for another motel to take business from us?" wrote one general manager.
While Young is wary of tax increases, he said he would not dismiss further discussion.
The state agreed Wednesday to channel more than $230,000 of funding to kick-start the revamping of Frederick High School.
The money was part of a $750,000 funding package approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works to support school construction in the state's western counties. The aid will help officials pay for a study of the best way to modernize Frederick High School, which opened in 1939 and is in need of an update, Delegate Galen Clagett said.
"It's like an English muffin. It's full of nooks and crannies," Clagett said of the school.
Frederick County Public Schools staff expects to have an architect in place by the spring to conduct the study, according to Ray Barnes, executive director of facilities services.
"We're ready to move forward," he said.
Barnes said this was one of several project funding requests put forth by Frederick County, but it was the top priority.
These funds help keep the new Frederick High School to open for the 2017-18 school year, he said.
Clagett said he's been working on attracting the state money -- which came from the sales and use tax on alcohol -- to the project since just after the close of session last year. He said he wasn't confident the public works board would approve funding. In fact, supporting documents for the meeting indicate that the state public school construction program felt the money for the study was a "local obligation."
But Clagett said he was glad to see the board ended up giving the Frederick project a nod.
"I believe that all five of the school districts that are represented in this request have a well-deserved reputation for sound fiscal management and a commitment to effective school maintenance," Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said during the public works meeting.
Projects in Allegany, Carroll, Garrett and Washington counties also received funding from the board Wednesday. The Maryland General Assembly directed the board to consider projects that, among other things, benefit older school buildings, eliminate use of portable classrooms or reduce energy consumption.
Superintendent Terry Alban said this is exciting news, especially with the county commissioners trying to move up school construction projects in the Capital Improvements Projects (CIP) budget.
"I'm delighted," she said.
Delegate Galen Clagett plans to pitch an idea today to raise the county's hotel tax and generate some extra cash that could help bring a conference center to downtown Frederick.
Now at 3 percent, the hotel tax rate in Frederick County is the lowest in the state, Clagett said. The state delegate is proposing to set the Frederick County rate at 5 percent, a change he estimates would bring in an extra $700,000 a year.
The bulk of the additional revenue would flow to economic development for the City of Frederick at a time when the money is sorely needed, he said.
"There are infinite possibilities here," Clagett said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
For the city, one of those options would be buying some land near Carroll Creek and taking a big step toward turning a long-discussed hotel and conference center from vision to reality, the delegate believes. Owning the property would give the city leverage in a building project without being too costly, he said.
Clagett plans to present the idea this morning to the board of directors of the Tourism Council of Frederick County. On Thursday, the council's executive director, John Fieseler, said the proposal is consistent with some of his group's priorities.
Downtown lodging and a conference center would stimulate the local economy, but since most hotels prefer to locate near highway exits, chances are slim that it would just spring up, Fieseler said.
Government backing could help lure a company to plant a hotel near the banks of Carroll Creek, he said, although he added that a cautious approach would be vital.
"I think that a community has to be very careful when there's a public-private partnership created. You have to make sure there's a benefit to the community. In the case where the community ... is saying we want this in our downtown area, then I think it makes a stronger case," Fieseler said.
And because neighboring jurisdictions charge 5 percent or more for the hotel tax, the rise shouldn't hurt the hospitality industry in Frederick County, he said.
Currently, state law allows the county commissioners to lift the hotel rental tax from 3 percent to as much as 5 percent. In fiscal 2011, the county fee garnered almost $1.1 million, with the bulk of the money going to the tourism council, according to Fieseler.
The bill to ramp up the hotel tax has been drafted, but Clagett said he wants to touch base with the stakeholders before he introduces it to the Maryland House of Delegates. He said he has already gotten positive feedback from the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.
Although chamber representatives didn't want to comment on Clagett's proposal because they hadn't seen the bill, the organization has offered support for the hotel and conference center.
"(A) first-class facility would elevate Frederick's position in the regional marketing place and be the crown jewel of Carroll Creek park," Ric Adams, chamber CEO, wrote to Frederick Mayor Randy McClement on Jan. 5.
With a feasibility study for the conference center about to begin, the city is lobbying the state for about $1 million that could pay for land and preliminary engineering work on a project, said Alderwoman Karen Young. But considering the state's tight budget, asking for the funds could be a long shot.
Still, Young said she's not comfortable with turning to the hotel tax to raise the cash. She's also careful about the way the city gets involved in the project.
"I think government has a very limited role," she said.
Commissioners President Blaine Young -- whose father, state Sen. Ron Young, is married to Karen Young -- said he's not a fan of raising taxes either. And he disagrees with supporting a hotel or conference center in a time when the county is short on money to build or upgrade roads and schools.
"Why not use that opportunity to fix some of the problems you have and ease the burden on your everyday taxpayers?" he said.
Clagett emphasized the tax would target visitors to the county and wouldn't affect local residents.
General Assembly to begin Wednesday in Annapolis
A proposed bump in the gas and flush taxes and new regulations for septic systems are a few of the hot-button issues that could await Frederick County legislators as they head to Annapolis on Wednesday.
The 2012 meeting of the Maryland General Assembly will likely be particularly important for rural counties, some lawmakers say.
In the lead-up to the start of the 90-day session, Frederick County lawmakers voiced concerned about some of the bills and policies that could hit agricultural communities hard.
"I look upon this session as probably one of the most significant of my 25 in Annapolis," said Delegate Donald Elliott, a Republican representing District 4B.
Legislation that curbs septic system use could slow down development in areas far from public water and sewer systems.
Elliott said he is worried these laws would strip local officials of some power over growth in their counties.
In November, a task force advised the governor and general assembly to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to septic legislation.
However, Sen. David Brinkley, who was on the governor-appointed task force, said the panel still recommended stepping up the annual flush tax -- now at $30 per year for each home on septic -- to $60 in fiscal year 2013 and $90 in fiscal year 2015.
As a member of the committee, Brinkley voted against the increase in revenue, which the panel indicated could help upgrade wastewater treatment plants in hopes of cutting down on pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition, the panel decided that new construction in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and other sensitive areas must use the best available septic system technology.
If lawmakers follow the recommendation, septic users could find themselves shouldering heavy maintenance costs, said Brinkley, a Republican from District 4.
"I oppose this as an assault on suburban and rural Maryland and on rural families," he said.
With the challenging economy, one of the biggest debates this session could be whether to pay for transportation projects by ramping up the gas tax by 15 cents over three years, say members of the county's legislative delegation.
Delegate Galen Clagett, a Democrat who represents District 3A, said he opposes the tax at this point.
"I'd like to crawl out of the maze that we're in called the recession before we consider any new tax," he said, adding that he also opposes raising the flush tax. "I think we're hitting the little guy right between the eyes with the taxes and fees."
The gas tax fills the state's transportation coffers, but over the years, lawmakers have used some of the money to shore up other parts of the budget. Some say without securing the fund, state residents won't trust state officials to reserve the tax increase for road improvements and other transportation projects.
Delegate Kathy Afzali said she was in favor of an amendment to the Maryland Constitution that would lock money in the trust fund for use on only transportation projects.
Clagett said he wouldn't approve such a measure and the state needs flexibility to transfer money in order to balance the budget, he said.
Several legislators anticipated that a same-sex marriage bill would come back this session after failing to pass in the House last year.
Afzali, a Republican from District 4A, said the reappearance of the legislation would be unfortunate because it monopolized much of the debate last year and distracted from other issues.
In approximately six weeks the Maryland General Assembly will meet in a special session to perform its constitutional duty to reapportion the state for congressional districts. The reapportionment is necessary so congressional districts reflect the new population data from the 2010 Census. During the special session it is important the state legislature not waiver from its task to approve a reapportionment plan. The Maryland legislature should not consider any new taxes or major policy initiatives.
During the past several legislative sessions, the General Assembly has put in place a conservative spending plan that recognizes the tough fiscal times the state faces by supporting the state's education and transportation system. The legislature needs to continue to hold the line on taxes so our working families will have enough funds necessary to maintain a household. Our businesses need to hold on to their money as they continue to recover from the long-term national recession.
Through these tough economic conditions, the state's sound fiscal policy continues to maintain a AAA bond rating -- one of only eight states that has this rating in 2011. The AAA rating results in the state paying millions of dollars in reduced interest rates for capital projects like public school road construction.
In addition, the legislature addressed the structural deficit and pension reform during the 2011 legislative session. The structural deficit was reduced by 46 percent and is on target to be completely eliminated within the next two years. Also, this year it cut over 650 vacant positions in state service, which saved $27 million. Because of the state Rainy Day Fund (5 percent of the budget, or $642 million), the $123 million cash balance this year, and the $400 million revenue increases, our state enjoys more than $1 billion in cash reserves.
The General Assembly has an obligation to meet for reapportionment, but expanding the agenda to include new taxes and policy initiatives should not be considered.
District 3A, Maryland House of Delegates
The Frederick News-Post does not endorse candidates in political contests, and Delegate Galen Clagett is not currently a candidate for public office. However, should he decide to run for comptroller of Maryland in the 2014 gubernatorial election, we think he would make a very credible candidate.
Clagett has said that he doesn't plan to run for re-election to the Maryland House, but has also indicated he may seek the high state office of comptroller. Clagett says that he intends to test the Democratic waters statewide to see how much interest there may be in his candidacy for comptroller.
Clagett has been involved in fiscal matters since being elected to the House in 2003, including serving as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He is also an independent-minded legislator and has practical business experience heading his own Frederick-based commercial real estate business.
Many Democrats expect current Comptroller Peter Franchot to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in the next election. We also expect that will be the case. Clagett says he believes Franchot has done a good job as comptroller and would not challenge him if he decided to seek re-election to that office, so that decision is central to Clagett's future.
The office of comptroller is an important one in Maryland. The comptroller is the state's chief fiscal officer and also sits on the powerful three-member Board of Public Works along with the governor and state treasurer. This board makes many critical decisions about how much, where, and for what purpose state money will be spent. Having a "local boy" on that board would help ensure that Frederick County is represented and its interests not take a back seat to other jurisdictions.
Clagett, 69, says that he will not formally decide whether to seek the office of comptroller for a couple of years. In the meantime, he will gauge statewide interest in such a candidacy -- and wait for Franchot to announce he is seeking the Governor's Mansion in the next election. Current Gov. Martin O'Malley is ineligible to serve a third consecutive term.
The News-Post will not officially endorse Clagett should he run for comptroller, but we can and do support and encourage him to seek the office. His real-world business knowledge, independent nature and political experience would make him a solid candidate for comptroller.
Delegate Galen Clagett, 3A, has announced that he will hold his annual Legislative Session Wrap-up Event on Tuesday, June 14 at Frederick City Hall, from 6-9pm.
The event will take place in the City Hall Boardroom and will feature Delegate
Clagett’s updates on various House Bills, the State Budget, and many other
important issues affecting Frederick that were addressed by the Legislature this
year. A Q&A session will follow to provide an opportunity for constituent feedback.
In his most recent press release discussing critical bills for 2011, Governor O'Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown thanked Delegate Galen Clagett for his perserverance on getting a Child Neglect Bill through the General Assembly.
"Governor O’Malley included in his legislative agenda this year a measure that criminalizes child neglect, treating as a separate crime the intentional failure to provide necessary assistance and resources for a minor. This protection was championed by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown during the 2011 Legislative Session.
“As of today, Maryland is no longer the only state in the nation without a criminal child neglect law,” said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. “By making child neglect a criminal act, we are sending a strong message that, in Maryland, every child deserves to be protected to the fullest extent of the law. Thanks to the leadership of Delegate Clagett and Senator King, who for years have fought to enact this law, as well as the hard work done by the General Assembly and all stakeholders, we are finally able to bring to justice those who intentionally put Maryland's children at substantial risk of harm.”
ANNAPOLIS — With Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown leading the way, Delegate Galen Clagett was finally successful this year in his effort to have Maryland recognize child neglect as a crime.
Clagett, a Frederick Democrat, first introduced the bill in 2008 but it never passed. He wanted the bill to allow prosecutors to pursue parents who intentionally fail to provide their children with necessities such as food or clothing.
This year, Brown and Gov. Martin O'Malley decided to make the issue a legislative priority. They joined with Clagett and Sen. Nancy King to push through the legislation, which Brown called "long overdue."
"We're not trying to penalize parents first, we're trying to educate parents first, we're trying to take care of children first," Brown said. "But sometimes the acts are so egregious that it does warrant punishment."
The bill passed the House of Delegates 139-0 and the Senate 41-5 last week. Brown said the governor will sign it into law within the next few weeks.
Before its passage, Maryland was the only state in the union without such a law.
The new law makes it a misdemeanor for those responsible for children to intentionally neglect their needs, creating a substantial risk of harm to the child's physical or mental health. Under current law, the Department of Social Services can intervene in cases of neglect, but prosecutors get involved only when they can make a case for child abuse.
The law would be punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. It specifically excludes cases where the parent's failure to provide necessary care is due solely to poverty or homelessness.
Brown said the state would likely prosecute in only the most severe cases.
About 14,000 cases of child neglect are reported in Maryland every year; the Department of Social Services substantiates about 4,000 as neglect. Only 2 to 5 percent of those are the types of cases that would be prosecuted, Brown said.
"It's in that small percentage of cases where, when you objectively look at it, you say that's not the case where we want to keep parent and child together," Brown said. "Not only do we want to remove the child, but that parent is deserving of punishment."
Clagett became concerned about child neglect when he was a high school guidance counselor in 1973 and saw it firsthand.
He still remembers cases where parents or foster parents could afford it, but did not provide medical or dental care for their children. Students weren't clothed properly or didn't get the eyeglasses that they needed.
Decades later, when his wife showed him a newspaper article calling for Maryland to pass a child neglect law, Clagett — by then a delegate — said he was shocked to see nothing had changed since his time as a guidance counselor.
The state had criminal laws on the books to protect animals and vulnerable adults — but not children — from neglect.
Clagett describes his many years of introducing the bill since then as "a long haul," riddled with rejections from legislative committees and quibbling over details of how the bill should be applied. Even in the bill passed this year, the crime was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
"Those discussions raged while kids suffered," Clagett said. "It's not perfect, but it's better than what we had, that's for sure."
In our current environment of ideologically motivated governors in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey busily converting their once-prosperous states into banana republics, it is satisfying to know that Maryland has been spared this race for the ditch, thanks to our forward-thinking Gov. Martin O'Malley and Frederick County delegates and senators such as Ron Young, Galen Clagett and David Brinkley, who understand that prosperity depends upon an effectively functioning government and a top-notch educational system.
The recently passed Maryland budget is a strong blueprint that faces down the fiscal challenges brought about by the Great Recession without compromising the high quality of life we enjoy in Maryland. This budget cuts our structural deficit by 42 percent, preserves our AAA bond rating (a claim only seven other states can make), invests in research (which generates highly skilled jobs for the state), and keeps our agricultural sector thriving and competitive.
And unlike certain other states, our legislature has chosen not to balance the budget on the backs of teachers and our public education system, which ranks first in the nation and continues to turn out the talent that helps businesses grow and prosper.
In the long run, this budget will save the state money. Our bond rating reduces our interest rates, and well-paying jobs generate more tax revenue. The governor and the members of our delegation who supported the budget ensured that the sacrifices were shared across the board, and that budget gap resolutions need to come from revenue enhancements as well as spending cuts if Maryland wants to remain a First World state.
No state has ever slashed-and-burned itself into prosperity. We can't have great schools, a good transportation network, and clean air and water if we're unwilling to pay for them.
Delegate Galen Clagett said he was confident the City of Frederick could expect an increase in local transportation funding for municipalities and counties under a budget proposed by the House of Delegates.
If the budget is approved, the city would receive about $500,000 in highway user revenue, according to Clagett, a Frederick County Democrat. In the current fiscal year, the city received $101,807 in highway user revenue.
"It will make it through, I'm pretty sure of that," Clagett said.
The revenue -- generated through license and registration fees, as well as the gas tax -- is intended to help pay for transportation projects in municipalities.
In fiscal 2007, the city received more than $3 million. But that figure decreased each year because the grants were reduced to help balance the state budget.
"Right now, it's only a grant," Clagett said. "Grants are very vulnerable without dedicated monies."
Clagett said the House is working to establish a formula that would make the revenue more reliable for municipalities. "It's a pretty big number to lose for municipalities, in some cases it's an 80 percent loss in revenues," he said.
Alderwoman Carol Krimm said getting any portion of the highway user revenue back would be a plus. She said she was holding out hope the money would be in the finalized budget.
"Having it in at this point is better than not having it in at all and having to fight for it in the Senate," she said.
Alderwoman Karen Young, who with the Maryland Municipal League advocated for an increase in highway user revenue, said every little bit helps.
"I would have preferred they be restored to the 2007 level, but I'm glad we're getting some kind of an additional allocation," she said.
In the budget, municipalities will receive a share of up to $10 million and counties will divide $13 million, Clagett said.
To fund the grant increase, titling fees were increased from $50 to $100 and vanity license plate fees increased from $25 to $50.
Clagett said the combined increases will generate about $53 million.
A $124 million transfer from last year in the general fund also contributed to increasing the highway user revenue.
With the increase, Clagett said Frederick County would receive $1,156,000.
Frederick County Budget Officer Mike Gastley said the county had already budgeted to receive $421,000 in revenue. After some of the funding is distributed to municipalities, the county will see a net gain of about $600,000.
The House will vote to approve the budget on Thursday or Friday before passing it to the Senate. After the budget is discussed in the Senate, the two chambers will come together to finalize the budget proposal, which is scheduled to be finished by April 4.
Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick Democrat, said once the budget is discussed in the Senate, there might be some minor adjustments made, but he expects the highway user revenue funding to remain relatively unchanged.
"I can't imagine the Senate will alter it drastically," he said.
A bill to make child neglect a crime should come out of the House Judiciary Committee without many amendments, according to Delegate Galen Clagett.
Clagett, who has introduced the bill for the past several years, testified in its favor on Thursday afternoon.
This year, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley is the lead sponsor on the bill and Clagett is a co-sponsor.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown testified before the House Judiciary Committee with Clagett.
The bill would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for a parent or caregiver to intentionally fail to provide necessary food, clothing, "toileting," essential medical treatment, shelter or supervision.
"Hopefully this year it will pass," Clagett said.
ANNAPOLIS — A Frederick County senator has delayed action on a proposed ban on septic systems, but the bill is likely to move forward next week.
Sen. David Brinkley, a Republican who represents Frederick and Carroll counties, asked the Senate Rules Committee to hold off on moving the bill forward. He did so at the request of the Frederick County Builders Association, which opposes the bill.
It will come up again on Tuesday, and Brinkley predicts it will ultimately move out of the Rules Committee and come up for a hearing.
The bill, which is supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, would change the way development is shaped in the state. In an attempt to encourage development near public sewer lines, it would ban the use of septic systems in developments of five or more units.
"It is not in anyone's interest to be building McMansion farms in areas without the infrastructure to support them, thus doing further damage to the (Chesapeake) Bay and its tributaries," said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for O'Malley. "If the bay were to die, and the further proliferation of polluting septic systems were to do irreversible damage to its ecosystem, then that would do far more damage to the building industry than anyone is expecting from this bill."
The proposal is opposed by the Frederick County Farm Bureau and the local builders association, which worry it could dramatically reduce the ability of rural landowners to develop their properties.
"I think it's a bad bill," Brinkley told members of the builders association at a Friday meeting. "I don't want to see it go anywhere, and I think the more you keep working on it, (the better), particularly where it harms rural Maryland."
Denise Jacoby, executive officer at the builders association, said the state should not approach the problems of pollution and sprawl with a one-size-fits-all attitude.
They hope the bill will be delayed so stakeholders can craft a compromise over the summer.
"It's just important that all of the stakeholders get together to find a solution because we all want to do our part," Jacoby said.
In the House of Delegates, Frederick Delegate Galen Clagett, a Democrat, signed a letter asking the chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee to reconsider the bill's timing.
"As representatives of State government in suburban and rural communities in Maryland, we feel it is important to continue to support and encourage private sector investment in our areas of the State," the letter states. "This is even more critical given the current economic climate, where the construction industry has been one of the hardest hit employment sectors of the economy."
Clagett described the group of delegates as Blue Dog Democrats for their more conservative views. They include delegates John L. Bohanan Jr., Norman Conway, Steven J. DeBoy Sr., Mary-Dulany James, Sally Jameson and David Rudolph.
Clagett said he believes the bill would end up just calling for a study of the pollution problem in the Chesapeake Bay in order to investigate the septic systems' impact.
"The main thing is to find out the extent of the problem," Clagett said.
Adamec said the governor was open to the concerns of those involved and was willing to consider changes to his legislation.
"The governor is supportive of the legislation as is," Adamec said. "Of course, he's always willing to discuss and consider ways to make the bill a better bill."
The lone Frederick County lawmaker in favor of the bill is Sen. Ron Young. A Democrat, he is urging builders and others to realize that the state must address the problem.
Septic systems filter out much less pollutants, such as nitrogen, than public sewer systems do. Those pollutants eventually enter the Chesapeake Bay.
"It isn't hard to figure out what we're fixing," Young said. "What it's causing is a serious problem. As I said, it's going to be addressed at some point, so let's address this the right way."
House Speaker Michael Busch recently appointed Delegate Galen Clagett, 3A to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). He joins Frederick Mayor Randy McClement and BoCC’s Vice President David Gray as representatives of Frederick County and will serve a two year term.
The COG is a regional organization of Washington area local governments. It is comprised of 21 local governments surrounding our nation's capital, plus area members of the Maryland and Virginia legislatures, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.
COG provides a focus for action and develops sound regional responses to such issues as the environment, affordable housing, economic development, health and family concerns, human services, population growth, public safety, and transportation.
They are a world class, high performance regional organization recognized for applying best practices and cutting edge technologies to regional issues, making the metropolitan Washington area the best place to live, work, play and learn.
Their mission is to enhance the quality of life and competitive advantages of the Washington metropolitan region in the global economy by providing a forum for consensus building and policy-making; implementing intergovernmental policies, plans, and programs; and supporting the region as an expert information resource.
For more information on this important organization, go to www.mwcog.org
The Maryland General Assembly is currently considering a piece of legislation that it should have taken care of last year.
During the 2010 session, state lawmakers passed a bill making it an offense to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. But that law was fatally flawed because the cell-phone violation was categorized as a secondary offense. In other words, you have to be violating another traffic law, e.g., crossing a center line, speeding, failure to obey a traffic signal, etc., while you're yakking on the phone in order to be charged with a cell-phone violation under the current law.
Since that law went into effect Oct. 1, it's pretty obvious not only to police, but also to drivers in general and cell-phone-using drivers in particular, that the intent of the law -- to reduce hand-held cell-phone use by drivers -- has been a bust.
This year, lawmakers are looking at doing what they should have done last year -- making hand-held cell-phone use a primary violation. If a driver is seen using a hand-held cell phone or similar device while driving, a citation could be issued on that basis alone. Hands-free phones would still be legal under the new legislation.
We're well aware that it often takes a long time to get anything accomplished in Annapolis, especially driving-related legislation, whether it applies to teen drivers, alcohol-related issues or cell-phone use.
In fact, it's likely that the secondary-offense provision of the 2010 law was what enabled it to pass. But that half-hearted attempt to address this serious public-safety issue has not worked as intended.
Hats off to Delegate Galen Clagett and other lawmakers who are currently working to put some real teeth into this law. As it stands now, it might as well not even be on the books.
Using a hand-held cell phone while driving is a major distraction. It has been responsible for innumerable accidents and many deaths nationwide. It's past time to make it a violation of Maryland traffic law in and of itself.
Bill would make talking and driving a primary offense
ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland lawmakers are taking a look this year at strengthening a ban on using cell phones while driving.
The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill last year to prohibit drivers from talking on cell phones while driving without a hands-free device, but it is only a secondary offense -- police officers cannot pull someone over solely for driving while holding a cell phone.
Several legislators, including Frederick County Delegate Galen Clagett, hope to change that.
Clagett is the lead sponsor of a bill making it a primary offense to drive while talking on a hand-held cell phone. That would allow officers to pull over and ticket mobile-using drivers.
Clagett is not the only lawmaker with such a bill, and he plans to withdraw his and join on to another proposal he believes is more likely to pass.
"I think people are concerned about people driving 80 miles an hour (while talking) on a telephone, so it will pass, I hope," Clagett said.
Clagett will sign on to legislation sponsored by Delegate James Malone Jr., vice chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee, which will debate the change to the driving law.
Malone, a Democrat who represents Baltimore and Howard counties, believes the original ban was effective at first, until people realized they would not be pulled over.
"As time went on, people were finding out, 'Hey, it's a secondary offense, I have to be doing something else wrong before they can pull me over,'" Malone said in a hearing last week.
The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that strengthening the law could result in a 10 to 20 percent rise in compliance.
Anecdotally, Clagett said he has not seen a drop in drivers using mobiles since the ban went into effect in October 2010.
"Today's highways, especially in this state, there's a lot of traffic," Clagett said. "We are a densely populated state, lots of vehicles. We need to be paying attention to everything we do behind the wheel. And that means no diversions."
Not everyone will support the proposed changes.
Frederick County Delegate Michael Hough, a Republican, said he wasn't in favor of last year's law, and doesn't plan to support an expansion to it.
He said the practice of talking on the cell phone while driving is so widespread that most people would be in violation of the law. He questioned whether police would start "cell phone traps" instead of speed traps.
"I think it's silly. We already have a law on the books that says you can't have distracted driving," Hough said. "This will turn into a revenue driver."
However, no one testified against the bill at last week's hearing. The Department of State Police, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriff's Association all supported it.
"Since our secondary offense law went into effect, it has been virtually impossible to notice any change in drivers' actions," a statement from the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriff's Association said. "It has not worked as a deterrent."
Elena Russo, a spokeswoman for Maryland State Police, said troopers have written citations as a secondary offense. But they could write more if it was a primary offense.
"We're hoping that people will comply with the law before we have to write a citation," Russo said. "We're not out there to see how many citations we can write; we're out there to improve public safety on our highways."
Mayor Randy McClement (R) and Frederick's Board of Aldermen have a message for the state legislature – the city wants its highway user fee money back.
The funds, collected via transportation-related state taxes or fees such as the gas tax or car title fees, are usually distributed by the state to municipalities to be used for road maintenance. Since 2007, when the City of Frederick received $3.05 million from the state in highway user fee revenue, the funding has declined 97 percent. The city expects to receive about $102,000 this year.
Instead of going to municipalities, the funds have been used by the state to cover shortfalls in its general fund budget. McClement, along with Aldermen Karen Young (D) and Carol Krimm (D), spoke to The Gazette's editorial board earlier this month about the trickle-down effect that the lack of funds creates. Since funding is slim to repair the city's roads, officials have had to take funds from the city's capital improvement budget, pushing off major road improvement projects in favor of minor repairs, McClement said.
Marc Stachowski, projects manager for the city's Department of Public Works, said in an interview that many of the city's roads are in need of repair, whether it's sealing cracks or laying out an entirely new surface.
"In the course of five to eight years, every road surface in the city should have some crack sealing done to it," Stachowski said. "Every 10 to15 years, you should have a milling process, where you remove the surface layer. ... The more you put it off, the worse it gets."
The cracks are caused by moisture seeping through the top layer of asphalt, and expanding underneath. The first response to cracks in the surface is to use a sealant, Stachowski said. He said the seals can last about two years, but that the first signs of cracks mean that the damage has already progressed to needing major repair.
Stachowski said it costs about $1 million per mile to mill off old asphalt and apply a fresh coat, and that many of the city's 320 miles of road need the work. Filling the cracks with tar is a cost that fluctuates based on the tar price and how many linear inches of cracks are in the surface, so he couldn't estimate the repair costs, but said the department has already used all $50,000 budgeted for this year.
"Our roads, unless they've just been built, you can't even measure the linear inches [of cracks] anymore," Stachowski said." In the next 15 years we should mill and overlay every street in the city. We've done about 15 miles in the last four years. We have about 320 miles."
Despite the cry for help, funding doesn't appear to be on the way. Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, who employs Alderman Krimm as a legislative assistant, said the state has no obligation to return the money to the municipalities, and doesn't foresee the money coming back this year.
"The highway user money is a grant out of the transportation fund –there's no obligation on the state's part to give it or pay it back," Clagett said. "I think there's a misconception about that."
He said the state has been dipping into special funds for budget shortfalls since the 1980s, and that the state has already returned all but $30 million of what it took from the transportation fund. Despite replacing the fund, no extra money went to municipalities.
"I guess it's because we needed it," Clagett said of not returning user fees to municipalities after restoring the balance. "There are times when you pay it back and then take it right back in. It depends on the budget. It becomes, sometimes, more and more difficult."
Though he acknowledged that the money was needed for the state's budgetary issues, he said he hated raiding the funds to the detriment of municipalities and counties.
"I hate doing it," he said. "I've tried to find money. Last year we came up with a plan to give municipalities money, and it was turned down. ... It's never easy."
Clagett said locking in a percentage of highway user funds to go to municipalities or counties, as some legislators have suggested, limits the flexibility of the state to make budget adjustments.
"One of the problems with that is we have so much stuff mandated in our budget," Clagett said. "To lock in one more thing – I really don't think they understand what it means to do a budget."
Clagett said it was unlikely that the money would be returned to its previous percentages this year, but said he hoped when money was returned, that it would go to municipalities first, as they were the hardest hit.
"Until we get some kind of attachment, I don't see any money going back," Clagett said. "Unless the governor goes out in the backyard and picks the money off of trees, what we're looking at is pretty much where we were before."
ANNAPOLIS — Responding to calls from farmers and builders groups, Frederick County lawmakers are opposing a bill that would limit development in rural areas by banning septic systems.
The lone exception is Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat who said this week he would support the legislation.
As proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, the bill would prohibit septic systems from being used in subdivisions of five lots or more. It would also prevent farmers from further subdividing their property after they subdivide it into more than one lot.
Young believes the bill would have a big impact on the environment. Septic systems put 10 times as much nitrogen into the ground as sewer treatment does, he said.
The state has spent billions upgrading sewage treatment plants, but septic systems are still being built. In Frederick County, more than 35 percent of buildings are on septic, Young said.
"It becomes a very serious environmental problem," he said.
Under the bill, developments would either have to hook up to a public sewer system or have a smaller sewage treatment plant to serve houses.
The Frederick County Farm Bureau and the Frederick County Builders Association oppose the bill, as do Frederick County delegates Galen Clagett, Donald Elliott, Patrick Hogan, Michael Hough and Kelly Schulz, and Sen. David Brinkley. Delegate Kathy Afzali could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Hogan, a Republican, plans to lead the fight against the bill in the House Environmental Matters Committee.
The proposal has far-reaching consequences beyond restricting septic systems because it includes provisions limiting subdivision on all properties, he said. It would also give the state more power over local governments in determining growth policy, he said.
"The septic is part of it, but it's an assault on private property rights," Hogan said. "It's dictating to farmers how they can use their land."
Another Frederick County Republican lawmaker, Elliott, said the bill is the most harmful he has seen in his 25 years in office.
"It is absolutely terrible what it would do. It appears as (if) it's a property taking," Elliott said.
He and other lawmakers have heard that a small sewage treatment plant for five houses would cost $1 million, plus $20,000 per year in maintenance costs. Subdivisions of less than five houses would also face increased costs because they would be required to have the latest nitrogen removal technologies on their septic systems.
Such septic systems cost between $500 and $800 a year in electricity, and an additional $300 to $400 in maintenance, according to the state builders association.
Elliott believes the bill is another way to enforce "smart growth" policies first implemented when Parris Glendening was governor. Elliott said wasn't surprised Young supports the legislation, because he was a leader in the state planning office and on smart growth during Glendening's tenure.
If enacted, the bill would go into effect this year, but there are some grandfathering provisions for those who file development applications before the law takes effect.
Hough, a Frederick County Republican, believes that could start rapid development in Frederick County. Farmers would rush to sell off land at cheap prices to avoid losing the entire value, he said.
"For a lot of them, this is their nest egg," Hough said. "They know what their property value is, and this is going to completely destroy their property value."
Clagett, a Democrat, questioned whether the bill was the most effective way to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
"I think the timing is wrong, and I'm not sure what we're fixing in relation to the total problem," Clagett said.
The bill's ramifications are unclear. In the past year, there have been no applications in the county approved for six or more houses with septic systems, according to Frederick County Planning Director Eric Soter.
That's in part because of the economic recession, but there isn't a lot of major development on well and septic anyway, Soter said.
The bill will be heard by the House Environmental Matters Committee on March 11. It is scheduled to be part of the hearing that begins at 1 p.m. in the House Lowe Office Building in Annapolis.
ANNAPOLIS — More than a dozen members of the United Democrats of Frederick County visited the state capital on Tuesday night to have dinner with the county's two Democratic state lawmakers.
In a meeting that ran more than two hours, Democrats talked with Sen. Ron Young and Delegate Galen Clagett about their top legislative priorities and current events going on throughout the county and state. Issues included transportation funding, redistricting, privatization at the county level and state laws on everything from cell phone use while driving to gun permits.
"This is sort of our tradition," said United Democrats President Russ Currey. "We come down here and break bread with the representatives we have here."
He e-mailed the chairman of the Frederick County delegation to see if the club could present to all eight of the county's lawmakers but did not get a response, he said.
The top state legislative proposals for the club this year revolved around transportation funding and improving the economy.
Currey said municipal governments need to get state highway user funding, which was once a major part of local road maintenance budgets.
"They're really hurting for this type of the local highway funding, which isn't coming back to the county," Currey said.
United Democrats member John Daniels brought up the topic with the two lawmakers.
"This was a big piece of the city budget that's almost been eliminated," Daniels said.
Young and Clagett talked about ways they hoped the state could tackle transportation funding. For instance, Young has proposed a bill that would raise three tolls by 25 cents to 50 cents, raising about $40 million for municipal governments.
He was in Prince George's County going to a basketball game and ran over a pothole that he feared had ruined his car. He wants the state to find a way to help those municipalities.
"I'm trying to make a point that municipalities are hurting," Young said.
Young said he would also consider an increase to the gas tax, if the money were guaranteed to go to municipalities and for transportation. He made a campaign pledge that he would not raise the gas tax this year, but he said those two conditions could make him vote for it.
Clagett said he thought he could get some transportation funding for municipalities through a bill he's proposed that would give municipalities their share of building excise taxes. All of those taxes -- even those collected in municipalities -- now go directly to the county government. If that tax is eliminated by the commissioners, he might consider similar legislation splitting the land recordation tax.
The two lawmakers and club members also expressed concern over several county proposals, including one to make 15 beds at Montevue Home private-pay. That means those beds would not be available to indigent people who have nowhere else to go.
Clagett said when he was a county commissioner, they understood that the land for the home had been given on the condition that it be used for that specific purpose. He also said the state had helped pay for the home because it was helping low-income seniors.
"My feeling is we're violating the trust here," Clagett said. "That should not have been done, and the people who suffer are the ones who don't have an advocate group, who don't have any money."
Likewise, Democrats objected to the county giving up the Head Start early education program and letting the federal government handle it.
United Democrats member Andrew Duck said that it was an important project.
"There's been a lot of ruckus about the comments that (county commissioners) Paul Smith and Kirby Delauter made, but what it really shows is that they believe Head Start is day care," Duck said regarding comments about women's roles in raising children. "They're not dealing with a child care provider, they're dealing with education."
The lawmakers encouraged Democrats to stay involved and to spread the word about what elected representatives are doing.
"That's where people got to stand up and point those things out," Young said.
United Democrats meets the first Monday of every month at Cafe 611, 611 N. Market St., Frederick. Dinner begins at 5:45 p.m. for those who wish to eat, with the meeting following at 7 p.m.
ANNAPOLIS — Frederick County could have the option to add more early voting locations under a bill proposed in the Maryland General Assembly.
Frederick County Elections Director Stuart Harvey spoke to the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, advocating for counties such as Frederick to be able to have more than one early voting location. The committee has not yet voted on the bill; potential hurdles could include the cost of having more locations.
Frederick County had 138,309 registered voters as of Dec. 31. State law requires counties to have at least 150,000 registered voters in order to get more than one location -- but Harvey said Frederick needs more because it is geographically the biggest county in the state.
During the state's first round of early voting in 2010, 56 percent of early voters came from in or around the City of Frederick, where the poll was located. Twenty-eight percent of voters came from the northern part of the county; 16 percent came from the southern part.
Harvey said states such as Florida and North Carolina that didn't have enough early voting centers had trouble in the 2008 election. He said he doesn't want to see that happen here in the next presidential election, in 2012.
"They had lines that went on literally for hours," Harvey said. "I certainly don't want that situation in Frederick County, and I know that a handful of my colleagues where they only have one location now would like to have the option to have more early voting locations in 2012 and beyond."
The bill, proposed by Delegate Galen Clagett, a Frederick County Democrat, and Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick, on the Senate side, would allow counties with less than 150,000 residents choose if they wanted to have up to three locations.
It will cost the state about $1,500 per location in increased costs, but the bulk of the costs would be borne by local jurisdictions, according to an analysis by the state Department of Legislative Services.
The department did not estimate how much it would cost to add just one early voting center, but if all 17 counties each added one more center, the total local cost would be about $376,000, the analysis found.
Harvey, speaking for the Maryland Association of Election Officials, said not all 17 counties with less than 150,000 voters are interested in adding more locations. Carroll, Charles and Queen Anne's counties are interested, the association found. Harford County is also interested, but might surpass 150,000 voters by the next election.
In Frederick County, the Board of Elections has discussed adding two more locations, if allowed. Harvey said he could make that work within his budget, and said the commissioners understand the need for more centers.
Still, lawmakers will be weighing the cost.
Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Frederick County Republican, said she was concerned about the costs even though it would benefit her district to have another location.
She said she would like the committee to consider whether reducing the number of days for early voting could offset the cost of adding more locations. But from what she's heard, she said it might not offset the cost.
"The good thing about early voting is it's more convenient for voters," Afzali said. "The bad thing is it costs money."
Delegate Jon Cardin is chairman of the elections subcommittee that will consider the bill. The subcommittee is scheduled to vote on Thursday, though he's not sure if they will discuss Clagett's bill.
Cardin said the committee is open to considering a change in the law, but will be taking a look at the costs. They are also considering limiting the number of days for early voting, he said.
"Opening the franchise to more voters, as long as we're doing it in a free and fair way, is a good thing," Cardin said.
Frederick County Lawmakers Weigh in on Company's Bid for Department of State Training Facility
ANNAPOLIS — The former Alcoa Eastalco Works plant will be dismantled, making way for the company to sell the 2,200-acre property near Adamstown. Click here for more
ANNAPOLIS -- A bill to criminalize child neglect has gained a powerful ally -- Gov. Martin O'Malley.
For two of the past three years, Delegate Galen Clagett, a Frederick Democrat, has pushed to make child neglect a crime.
He was joined in Annapolis by Frederick County State's Attorney Charlie Smith, who gave examples of cases he was unable to prosecute in which parents were neglecting children as young as 2 years old.
O'Malley said Monday that making child neglect a crime will be one of his top priorities. Clagett will join the governor as the bill's lead co-sponsor in the House of Delegates.
"One of the most solemn obligations we have as public servants is the protection of the public's safety, and most especially, the protection of our state's most vulnerable populations," O'Malley said in a statement.
"When one child becomes the victim of neglect or abuse, it impacts us all. And therefore, we have the obligation to bring our laws in line with the needs our children."
Under his proposed bill, child neglect will be a felony with punishments of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. It would target parents or guardians who fail to provide food, clothing, toileting, essential medical treatment, shelter or supervision to children.
As proposed, parents could present an affirmative defense if the neglect was due to lack of financial resources. It does not provide for a defense for parents who fail to provide medical care for religious reasons.
Clagett said he was contacted by a member of the governor's staff and told it would be a priority. Clagett said that is good news, because the most important thing is to get it passed.
"I think the governor will have sway I don't have, so let's hope it goes through," Clagett said. "That would be quite an accomplishment for us."
Clagett, a former high school guidance counselor, said he has always been concerned about child abuse and neglect of children. A few years ago, he read a Washington Post article about child neglect, which criticized Maryland as the only state in the union without such a criminal law.
"When I found out that this state has neglect laws for animals but not for kids, I was a little bit dismayed," Clagett said. "(The) only one of 50 states that doesn't have it. We're usually leaders, but we're way behind in that arena so I felt a need to push it."
So far, Clagett has faced challenges in the legislature on the legislation. He first introduced it in 2008, but was not successful in passage.
Last year, he introduced it as a felony with up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000. By the time it was voted on by the House of Delegates, it had changed to a misdemeanor for child endangerment with a penalty of up to $5,000 and/or jail time up to five years.
In that form, it passed the House of Delegates, but was not acted on in the Senate. He is hopeful the bill will fare better this year.
In Frederick County, Smith said he would be prepared to prosecute cases of neglect should the bill become law. His office routinely gets calls from case workers who say they have a case of neglect that should be prosecuted.
"We tell them they need intentional wrong-doing," Smith said, or else the prosecutors are not able to pursue the case.
He believes the law, as proposed, needs some changes. Specifically, he is concerned about the defense for lack of financial resources. It is too broad and needs to be clarified, he said.
The Maryland State's Attorneys Association is expected to present alternative language to address that issue. Smith hopes the legislature moves forward.
"It's something Maryland has needed for quite some time now," Smith said.
Delegate Galen Clagett is planning to return to Annapolis championing some of his old ideas as well as bringing new ones to the table. Click here for more
Frederick Mayor Endorses Delegate Clagett for 3A - Calls Clagett “A Dependable Voice for Frederick”
FREDERICK, Md., Oct. 21/ --- Frederick Mayor Randy McClement has officially endorsed Delegate Galen Clagett for the House of Delegates in 3A which contains the city of Frederick. In his endorsement of Delegate Clagett, Mayor McClement said, “Delegate Clagett has been a dependable voice for Frederick’s interests in the General Assembly. Whenever we needed to be heard by the legislative leaders, Galen has been there to facilitate that dialogue. He keeps me updated with information, and is quick to respond to our calls for action on matters that impact Frederick’s residents. We’ll benefit from four more years of his leadership in the House of Delegates.”
Candidates for the Maryland House of Delegates discussed the issues during Tuesday's candidate forum at Frederick Community College. The forum was presented by the Frederick County League of Women Voters. Click here for more
Education, health care and equal pay were at the top of candidates' lists when it came to top women's issues at a luncheon on Monday. More than two dozen candidates attended the luncheon sponsored by the Frederick County Commission for Women. Click here for more
Incumbent Candidate Galen Clagett Wins Endorsement from The Gazette.
For the entire article, click here.
Delegate Galen Clagett now has three claims to fame.
His triplet granddaughters will appear in a movie, "Life as We Know It," about two single adults whose best friends die in an accident and leave them custody of a baby -- together. Click here for more
Most voters see public education as an economic issue, a new poll shows. And if Congress doesn't act to reform the education system before November, about half say that inaction will be "highly important" when they cast their midterm ballots. Click here for more
Annapolis, MD - Maryland's triple-A bond rating has been affirmed by three major bond rating agencies.
Maryland PIRG, a non-profit, non-partisan advocate for the public interest, monitors the voting records of Maryland’s state legislators. For his voting in 2010, PIRG gave Delegate Galen Clagett a 92% lifetime approval rating. In 2010, of the five key public interest votes in the House of Delegates, Delegate Clagett voted for four and had an excused absence for the fifth. This earned him an 83% rating for 2010 and a 92% lifetime rating. For more information on PIRG's ratings and to see how other Frederick legislators stacked up, please go to PIRG's Legislative Scorecard 2010.
Ehrlich, Senate president say lack of business savvy can be a problem
No one knows precisely how many small-business owners there are in the 188-seat Maryland General Assembly, but this much is clear: There aren't many.
The number is so small, in fact, that a Democratic Business Caucus launched by Del. Galen Clagett a few years back never got off the ground. Clagett, who owns a property management and commercial sales company in Frederick, printed red-and-gold business cards, formed a steering committee and called a meeting or two. But only a couple of dozen colleagues signed up, and they seemed to have done so half-heartedly.
"No one was interested," Clagett said. The caucus quickly disbanded.
In making relief for entrepreneurs a theme of his gubernatorial campaign, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has repeatedly lamented the dearth of legislators with business experience. He has implored employers across the state to run for office — or at least to go to Annapolis, ledgers in hand, to educate lawmakers.
"You need to understand the predisposition of the legislature today," Ehrlich told a group gathered in Gaithersburg to hear his business proposals. "They've never really done it in the real world."
There's a restaurateur or two, a jeweler, and a handful of accountants and attorneys with employees on their payrolls. But those lawmakers are vastly outnumbered by corporate lawyers, government employees and those who have made a career of politics. One-fifth of the lawmakers count their elected office as their full-time job.
Yet small-business issues are in the election spotlight this year — pushed there by a slow national economic recovery and the state's business climate. Last year, nearly 3,000 more businesses closed than opened, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Ellen Valentino, Maryland director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the topic was getting "unprecedented attention" from Democratic and Republican candidates. The legislature now includes just seven of her members, and six more have decided to run, she said.
"Government intrusion on a national and state level have prompted small-business owners to say, 'I need to get to Annapolis. I'm prepared to come to the table,' " Valentino said.
Candidates are trumpeting their business experience. Smith Island baking company owner Brian Murphy, Ehrlich's opponent in the Republican primary, said primaries in California and Virginia showed that voters are choosing "businesspeople, not politicians."
Gov. Martin O'Malley weighed in recently, signing an executive order to form a commission to study small business, though his campaign said he has been addressing business needs throughout his administration. Ehrlich has criss-crossed the state collecting ideas from small-business owners. Both are lawyers who have had long careers as elected officials.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat representing Calvert and Prince George's counties, largely agreed with Ehrlich that the legislature needs more members with small-business experience. Miller has a law firm in Clinton.
"It's a fair criticism of lawmakers everywhere, including the United States Congress," he said. "I think we all wish that there were more professionals. That way we wouldn't all be so dependent on our staff when business issues come up."
Miller, a member of the Senate for 35 years and a Maryland history buff, said the legislature included far more businessmen when it met once every two years. Now, meeting for 90 days in Annapolis every year makes it impossible for most business owners to attend.
Lawmakers who run businesses say the balance can be nearly impossible. Del. Ron George, a Republican, owns a jewelry store in the shadow of the State House.
"If my business wasn't a block away," he said, "I don't know if I could do it."
George says he has passed many lunch hours helping to close a sale or managing his 10 employees in Annapolis and another shop in Severna Park. He views himself as a businessman directly affected by policy decisions — he had to let his bookkeeper go after a round of tax increases earlier this decade.
Del. James King, a Republican who owns two restaurants and a catering company in Anne Arundel County, said "lack of a small-business voice" prompted him to run four years ago. He's now trying for the Senate seat in his district.
King said he has brought his financial statements to show colleagues on the economic matters committee how tough it can be to make ends meet.
"I say constantly, 'You can talk until you're blue in [the] face, but you don't really understand until you make a payroll, until you've had to look people in the eyes and lay them off.' I'm not just responsible for my family, if I don't succeed. The families of 115 employees depend on me."
He says he urged Valentino about a year ago to pair lawmakers with small-business owners for mentoring — something she agrees is a "great idea," but has not initiated.
Ehrlich has argued that lack of sensitivity to business can lead to grave legislative errors. Examples, he said, include a decision in 2007 to levy a 6 percent tax on technology companies — it was repealed within months — and Maryland's refusal to lower its 8.25 percent corporate income tax, even as Virginia lawmakers considered eliminating their state's tax altogether.
This year, the Senate's few business owners, Democrats and Republicans alike, loudly and unsuccessfully opposed legislation requiring most retailers to offer employees 15-minute shift breaks if they work at least four consecutive hours.
Sen. Rona E. Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat who owns a shopping center management company, complained that her colleagues weren't thinking about the smallest businesses, where only one or two employees may be on the clock.
A business caucus, Clagett says, could have guided policy in a way that individual lawmakers cannot. For example, he says, it could have better explained the needs of business during a debate this legislative session over whether to ease rules on stormwater pollution that were costly to developers. In the end, lawmakers did exempt the regulations for development projects already in place.
"It certainly isn't a panacea," he said of forming a business caucus, "but it would have been a vehicle."
Maryland League of Conservation Voters releases its 2010 Environmental Scorecard - Delegate Clagett Scores 100%
First, as chairman of a budget subcommittee, I know firsthand that Maryland has cut both spending and the government work force for three consecutive fiscal years. The lowest increase in total state spending in any single four-year term over the past 40 years occurred this term under Gov. Martin O'Malley, according to the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services. We have cut over 4,000 positions from the executive branch this term and reduced state government overall by 1,286 positions.
Second, Maryland, like every other state in the nation, is facing a significant challenge to sustain the current pension system. One of the biggest cost drivers in the growth of the state's budget is the cost of teacher pensions. However, we cannot have a knee-jerk reaction and simply slash the state's pension system that supports over 315,000 current and former Maryland workers.
We need a comprehensive solution to Maryland's entire pension system, considering age, benefit level, contribution rate, instead of a knee-jerk reaction to simply slash the pension program and further exacerbate the impact to Marylanders across the state. The legislature has agreed to create a Sustainability Commission of private-sector experts to take a comprehensive look at the state's retirement system -- which supports state employees, current retirees and teachers -- and make recommendations to the legislature by December.
"Real progress" is maintaining core services that the citizens of Maryland expect and deserve from their government, like K-12 education, affordable tuition and public safety programs through the most significant global economic crisis since the Great Depression. Other states are slashing education funding to balance their budgets. California is turning away 300,000 students from colleges and universities next year and laying off 26,000 public school teachers. New York is cutting 13,000 teachers and New Jersey cutting 6,500 teachers, all of which lead to larger class sizes and more challenging learning environments.
Like some politicians, Mossburg chooses to engage in inflammatory political rhetoric and scare tactics rather than in engage in productive discussions to find solutions. Government is complicated and takes real ideas and a collaborative approach to solve problems. Sound bites are not solutions.
GALEN R. CLAGETT
Delegate, District 3A
Maryland General Assembly
Dear Delegate Clagett,
On behalf of the Maryland Trauma Center Network (TraumaNet), I wish to express our
appreciation for your unwavering support of the Maryland Trauma and EMS System.
The Maryland General Assembly made a rigorous assessment of our existing system,
including using the expertise of nationally recognized trauma and EMS scholars and
practitioners. In the end, the Governor, you and the General Assembly as a whole adopted
the approach of measured reform and support for the existing system.
TraumaNet extends our thanks and appreciation for all you have done to ensure that our
world renowned system remains intact and continues to provide an unsurpassed safety net
to the citizens of Maryland.
Brenda F. Johnson
Frederick Mayor Randy McClement requested Wednesday that the Board of County Commissioners cut a check to the city for the full $5.02 million the county pays it for its share of its tax equity payment for fiscal 2011, no strings attached. Click here for more
We write in response to Marta Mossburg's April 7 column, "New Jersey on the Chesapeake." It is important to deal with the facts of our economic situation and take some of the media spin out of Maryland's current fiscal outlook. Click here for more
Delegate Galen Clagett earned a 100% rating from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Environment Maryland for his voting record during the 2010 General Assembly.
Bills that were up for consideration in the House included:
Smarter Transportation (HB 1155) – Makes sure future transportation projects are consistent with state smart growth goals and greenhouse gas emission limits.
Oyster Poaching (HB 1191) – Protects oyster sanctuaries by revoking the licenses of convicted poachers.
Forest Conservation (HB 1352) – Raises fees for development that impacts forests outside of priority growth areas.
Solar Energy (SB 277) – Accelerates the production of solar power used in Maryland over the next five years.BPA Ban (HB 33) – Bans the toxic chemical bisphenol A from baby products.
Delegate Galen Clagett was in Annapolis this week, basking in victory as many of the bills he sponsored were signed into law.
Clagett, a Frederick Democrat, said 12 of the 14 bills he introduced were passed in one form or another. The remaining two were withdrawn when state police told him he could accomplish them without legislation, he said.
One of the bills that passed for which Clagett has gotten widespread attention was the clothesline bill, which prevents local homeowners associations from issuing a blanket prohibition on the energy-saving devices.
Although his name is not on the final bill that passed, much of his language was used in it.
He expects a fair number of people will turn to the sun to dry their clothes, now that it has been signed into law.
"The location and device used is controlled by the HOA. It's not that they'll stick up clotheslines anywhere; they have to put them where they're prescribed," Clagett said.
Other bills signed into law: a new bill of rights for correctional officers, adding a helicopter pilot to the board of an advisory EMS group, requiring that Frederick County make a set tax equity payment to municipalities, and establishing a new system for the processing of speeding tickets.
As if that weren't enough, Clagett filed papers for re-election while he was in Annapolis.
Much like the session in Annapolis just concluded, stark partisan differences marked a breakfast Tuesday where the eight-member delegation recapped for Chamber of Commerce members what the Maryland General Assembly did for business this year. Click here for more
ANNAPOLIS -- Five bills applying only to Frederick County passed the Maryland General Assembly during the annual legislative session that ended at midnight Monday. Click here for more
ANNAPOLIS -- With the end of the Maryland General Assembly's session only days away, most of the local bills introduced by Frederick County's lawmakers are still outstanding. Click here for more
There is a good deal of bad blood these days between the Frederick County Commissioners and a number of the county's 12 independent municipalities. Some of it involves the power struggle over what happens to land that borders municipalities. Click here for more
ANNAPOLIS -- Penalties for neglecting a child will be less than a Frederick delegate sought when he introduced a bill reforming the state's child abuse laws. Click here for more
ANNAPOLIS — Welcome to Maryland; we're closed. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS -- State lawmakers have yet to act on a bill giving Frederick County municipalities more control over their public water and sewer plans. Click here for entire article
Frederick County commissioners have thrown a curveball into Del. Galen R. Clagett's mission to financially help the county's 12 municipalities.
The Frederick County Delegation to the General Assembly has introduced a bill, proposed by Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, that stipulates how much money the county has to give municipalities each year. Under the so-called "tax equity program," the county gives the towns money to pay for services that the county does not provide inside town limits. The money pays for services such as road maintenance, planning and zoning, police, and parks and recreation. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS -- A Frederick lawmaker expects his bill to help the Chesapeake Bay will be passed in the House of Delegates this week.
Delegate Galen Clagett, a Frederick Democrat, is seeking greater restrictions on phosphorous in lawn fertilizers. Click here for entire article
It is the end of November, 6 degrees outside. The child is wearing a T-shirt and jeans. No jacket. No gloves. No warm winter scarf. Meanwhile, the child's parents are inside their apartment watching TV and smoking marijuana. They are unaware and, it turns out, unconcerned about their child's fate. Click here for entire article
Comptroller Peter Franchot had glowing words this week for Delegate Galen Clagett, a Frederick Democrat.
Franchot was testifying for the second year in a row in favor of Clagett's bill to help collect child support payments.
Clagett's idea is simple: The state maintains a list of unclaimed property owed to residents. That could be a dormant bank account, missed paycheck or other property handed over to the state because the rightful owner hadn't claimed it. Clagett wants to match up that list with people who owe child support payments, and hand the money over to the parent to whom the support is owed.
After Clagett introduced his bill last year, Franchot's office was able to match up funds on 1,700 parents, who, in total, owed their families more than $670,000. Now, he would like the bill to be passed so the comptroller's office can get information from the Child Support Enforcement Administration about deadbeat parents every month, or every quarter.
Franchot said it could be done at no cost to the state. His office gets the list only once a year, and it can be outdated.
Franchot said after the hearing that he admires Clagett for his persistence and accomplishments on the issue so far.
ANNAPOLIS -- A proposed state law would punish parents who do not feed their children, do not provide essential medical treatment or otherwise fail to care for their basic needs. Click here for entire article
Clagett cool to the idea, says ‘everyone should get a free ride'
Lawmakers in Annapolis are beginning to debate the idea of seeking reimbursement from insurance companies when Maryland State Police fly critically injured patients from accident scenes, a proposal that is meeting resistance from at least one legislator from Frederick County.
Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick said such an idea would be unfair, in part because not all insurance companies cover such an expense, which can run up to $10,000 in the private industry. As chair of subcommittee on Public Safety and Administration, he said he will not support any such change because it will ratchet up insurance rates for residents using the medical evacuation service, or Medevac. Click here for entire article
For previous articles on Delegate Clagett's work on the Medevac program click here.
ANNAPOLIS -- Two Frederick County lawmakers are taking steps to ensure two recent city annexations will be served by public water and sewer.
Delegate Galen Clagett, a Frederick Democrat, introduced a bill last week to require that affected municipalities sign on to changes in water and sewer service maps and plans before the county could change them. Sen. David Brinkley, a Republican who represents Frederick and Carroll counties, is introducing an identical bill in the Senate. Click here for entire article
The Route 15 corridor at the Hayward Road intersection is one of the most dangerous sections of road in Frederick County.
On February 4, 2010, in an effort to address this critical public safety issue, Delegate Galen Clagett of District 3A, met with MDOT Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, State Highway Administrator Neil Pedersen, and District Engineer David Coyne. Delegate Tawanna Gaines, Chairman of the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee and Frederick Alderman Carol Krimm also participated in the meeting.
After a thorough discussion of public safety options, State Highway officials will be implementing the following improvements to the Route 15/ Hayward Road intersection:
1. Two large highway signs will be placed on Route 15 South: one at one mile north and another at 1500 feet north of the Route 15 Southbound/Hayward Road intersection advising drivers that this area is a safety zone and that the speed limit is 55 mph. In the future, the sign at 1500 feet north will have a solar powered flashing beacon.
2. Shortly thereafter, three new sets of ten rumble strips will be installed closer to the Hayward Road intersection.
Visual narrowing of the lanes also known as speed reduction markings will begin at the 1500 feet sign and decrease in spacing as drivers approach Hayward Road.
3. During the spring/summer of 2010, an access ramp to the parallel service road will be built from Route 15 South. This ramp will be 200 feet north of the Route 15 South/Hayward Road intersection. The ramp will allow motorists turning right onto Hayward from southbound Route 15 to exit Route 15 before the dangerous Hayward Road/Route 15 intersection. The ramp will eliminate confusion that motorists experience turning left from Route 15 North.
4. Rumble strips will be installed in the left turn lane from Route 15 North to Hayward Road.
Delegate Clagett is also requesting Maryland State Police and local police departments increase patrols and speed enforcement in the area.
The newest member of the Maryland General Assembly is throwing his support behind a bill that would require homeowners associations and municipal governments to allow clothesline use.
Delegate Charles Jenkins, a Frederick County Republican, joined Delegate Galen Clagett, a Democrat, at a hearing Thursday before the House Environmental Matters Committee. The bill would stop homeowners associations or local government from outright banning clotheslines. It would permit them to regulate where the clotheslines would be placed. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS -- Local municipal leaders are uncertain about the Frederick County delegation's proposal to reform the tax equity program.
Municipal officials contacted this week said they had not heard much about the proposal, which was introduced Friday to the General Assembly. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS — Frederick County might have to pay its towns and cities millions annually in exchange for services they provide.
Under a bill approved by Frederick County's delegation of state lawmakers Friday, the county would hand over $6.6 million to municipalities, with that amount increasing if county revenue rises. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS -- Get ready to pay based on trash volume.
Frederick County's state lawmakers have endorsed a pilot program that would set different prices for residential trash collection, based on how much residents throw away. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS -- State funding for Way Station Inc. could help the Frederick nonprofit expand its services for veterans and people with developmental disabilities, emotional challenges and mental illness.
Delegate Galen Clagett is asking the state for $500,000 to help Way Station expand its campus on West Patrick Street. Click here for entire article
ANNAPOLIS -- A new statue at the Frederick County Courthouse is on track, even though lawmakers made a mistake on the proposed location on a bill granting funding to the project. Click here to read more
District 3A delegate attracts support from both sides of the aisle
Flanked by his Democratic supporters, along with a sprinkling of prominent Republicans in Frederick County, Del. Galen R. Clagett announced Monday he will seek a third term in the Maryland House of Delegates in November. Click here for more
It's difficult to argue with Delegate Galen Clagett's point about old-fashioned clotheslines versus clothes dryers when it comes to the environment and saving energy. Click here to read more
The impending federal health care bill could be a negative prescription for Maryland's finances, according to legislative leaders. Click here for the whole article