Cumberland Times-News

Local News

November 30, 2013

Delegation plans public meetings

CUMBERLAND — Members of the legislature representing Allegany and Garrett counties in the General Assembly say their yearly meetings to hear constituent issues and concerns are important as they plan for the 2014 session in Annapolis. That session is expected to run from Jan. 8 to April 7, according to the legislative calendar.

“It’s important because it gives you the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your constituents. That’s the best form of communication,” said Sen. George Edwards. A fellow member of the delegation agreed.

“This is an obligation as representatives of the people ... that’s our job. And I enjoy meeting with the public,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly. Edwards said it gives legislators an opportunity to hear what’s on people’s minds. Occasionally, representatives don’t know all of the concerns of citizens, Edwards said. Taxes are usually a recurring theme, and the delegation agrees with many citizens. Taxes are too high, delegation members said. Edwards and Kelly also said concerns about gun control laws passed during the 2013 session may be an issue.

The District 1 delegation includes Edwards and Kelly and Delegates Wendell Beitzel and LeRoy Myers Jr.

Beitzel said the meetings with citizens and county commissioners help legislators clarify their agenda for the upcoming session.

“The people can let us hear their views on issues likely to come up. They can also tell us what we should be opposing,” Beitzel said.

Meetings for public participation are planned in Allegany and Garrett counties. The Allegany County meeting is set for Dec. 9 at 7 p.m at the Allegany College of Maryland auditorium. The Garrett County public meeting is set for Dec. 19 at the Garrett College Continuing Education Building at 7 p.m. The Garrett County meeting will be attended by Edwards and Beitzel, who represent Garrett County.

All delegation meetings are open to the public, but some are designed for the delegation to hear from other public officials or specific organizations.

Local delegation members said they’re glad to hear from constituents at any time, in or out of session.

“I’ll call back, usually within a matter of hours; sometimes all it takes to solve a problem is a phone call or a letter,” Kelly said. “I’m accessible whether it’s in my office, or a Sheetz or Walmart,” Kelly said. Beitzel said during the session he puts out a regular newsletter for constituents. “I put a good deal of effort into that,” Beitzel said. It’s all part of keeping people informed.

Kelly said he’s never really been surprised by a subject that came up during the presession meetings. Beitzel said sometimes concerns come up that the state delegation can’t do much about.

“Sometimes something comes up that we can’t possibly do,” Beitzel said. That could be because the matter concerns federal law or the request would not be supported by the delegation.

Delegation meetings with county commissioners are coming up Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. with Allegany County and Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. with Garrett County. Other upcoming meetings in Allegany County include the Dec. 4 Allegany County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Holiday Inn; a meeting with representatives of the Allegany Museum and officials of the city of Cumberland at the district office. A meeting with the boards of education for both counties is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 16 at Southern High School.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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