Cumberland Times-News

November 26, 2012

Legislators to meet citizens

Delegation wants input from the public, elected officials, before it heads to Annapolis

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Local legislators are planning a series of meetings with citizens and local elected officials before they head to Annapolis for the 2013 General Assembly session.

This coming year will be the 11th in office for Delegate LeRoy Myers Jr., who represents portions of Allegany and Washington counties.

“From a representatives standpoint, it’s one of the few times the citizens can come out and talk face-to-face about whatever is on their minds. We can bring them to Annapolis without them going there,” Myers said.

Sen. George Edwards agreed.

“It’s part of the process. It allows the people the opportunity to express their thoughts on the issues they think are important,” Edwards said. Transportation issues could be important in the coming year. Edwards has long advocated a mass transit tax that falls most on the areas with heaviest use of mass transit.

“The purpose is to allow the public to suggest legislation and offer their thoughts on any matters which might come before the General Assembly,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly. Kelly said he’s open to answering questions from citizens.

“If you ask me a question, I’m going to give you an answer,” Kelly said. If people disagree with a vote he’s made, Kelly said he’s willing to discuss the reasons he voted as he did.

The meeting aimed at public input will be held at the Allegany College of Maryland auditorium on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.

Myers said some topics come up every year and other change from year to year.

He expects both teachers and correctional officers to offer their usual strong arguments about their concerns.

“Health care is a huge topic. I hear about it wherever I go,” Myers said. With the election settling some issues, like expanded gambling and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, there may be more time to tackle the state’s structural deficit. That deficit remains at $400-500 million, Edwards said. :”Hopefully, we can get that deficit to zero,” Edwards said, citing the recent reduction of the deficit, which recently stood at more than $1 billion.

“The governor has taken from every pot available,” Myers said. “We still have a large hole to fill,” Myers said.

Kelly said he expects a push for a higher gasoline tax and a move to repeal the death penalty, among other matters.

Myers also said he’s concerned about continued increases in state and federal taxes.

“We could fast become Greece or Europe ... you can only tax people so much. People are being taxed to death,” Myers said. High taxation leads to a defeatist attitude among the people, Myers said. “More needs to be done in terms of entitlements,” Myers said.

All members of the local legislative delegation have consistently said they oppose tax increases.

Only the meeting at Allegany College of Maryland is designed for public participation. The other meetings are scheduled with the Allegany County Commissioners on Dec. 6 at 3 p.m.; the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce Dec. 14 and with Attorney General Douglas Gansler on North Branch pollution issues on Dec. 11 at 9 a.m.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.