Cumberland Times-News

October 15, 2013

Rural counties coalition plans economic summit

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A coalition of rural counties wants to get the word out about the importance of rural counties to Maryland’s economy. To that end, the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition plans an economic summit for Nov. 15 in Annapolis at the Governor Calvert House.

The keynote speaker will be Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group, Inc., who will speak on the topic “The Economic Impact and importance of Maryland’s Rural communities.” The summit will be part of the organization’s annual meeting, said Allegany County Commission President Michael McKay, the chairman of the rural counties organization.

Basu is a well-known economic analyst who has worked for a variety of government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

The event will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. A roundtable with legislators and interest group representatives is also scheduled for the meeting, along with the election of officers. The coalition will also determine its legislative priorities for the 2014 General Assembly session, McKay said at the Allegany County Commission meeting last week.

The coalition will hire a lobbyist, as it has for the past two legislative sessions. For the 2013 General Assembly session, the coalition paid lobbyist Bruce Bereano $10,000 for his services, according to the coalition’s annual report. For the 2012 legislative session, the coalition hired two separate lobbyists, in part because Allegany County commissioners said they didn’t want to work with Bereano.

Among the groups and individuals contributing a total of $1,500 to the coalition who were not county members were, from Allegany County: Richard Carder, IBEW, Local 307, $100; Janice Keene, $100; CBIZ, $500 and the Maryland Coal Association, $100. From Frederick County came the following contributions: Stop Agenda 21, Maryland, LLC. $100: Thomas Browning, Locust Grove Farm, Frederick $100 and L-3 Services, $500, according to the annual report.

The annual report showed the coalition had $48,000 in total revenue and $36,078.69 in expenses, with a $11,921.31 cash balance on hand as of May 10. The report appeared to cover all transactions from the coalition’s first income and expenditures as a new organization in January 2012.

McKay said there is no formal dues structure and that each county was encouraged to donate the amount they believe to be “necessary and able.”

“We’re very transparent,” McKay said.

Funds forwarded by member counties are primarily used for lobbying efforts including a reception for legislators.

The coalition now includes 10 member counties, including Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Somerset, Washington and Wicomico counties. That includes elected officials representing nearly a million Marylanders.

For 2013, three member counties contributed the bulk of funds for the coalition, with Allegany, Washington and Frederick contributing $5,000 each. Other members, not all of them members for the full year, contributed varying amounts. Dorchester and Cecil each contributed $2,000; Kent $1,500 and Caroline $1,000, according to the annual report.

The coalition has only three committees, one on land use, one for the organization’s bylaws and a legislative committee, said McKay.

The organization is not meant as a rival to the Maryland Association of Counties, McKay has said. He said there is a need, though, for the rural coalition as an independent organization.

The annual report and other coalition news can be found at: http://www.marylandruralcounties.org/page/.

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