By Sen. Roy Dyson

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]

The final day of the 1998 Maryland General Assembly, Monday, April 13 saw the passage of several of my bills which I feel will benefit St. Mary's County citizens. It also was a good session for all taxpayers
with relief passed in several areas, including an accelerated income tax rate reduction. We also passed pension reform for state employees and delayed utility company deregulation because it was just going too fast to know the right thing to do.

There were several negatives for our area. The tobacco settlement bill passed which I think sends a bad message to the tobacco companies which purchase our local crop. And the compromised pfiesteria bill I think still places too great a burden on local farmers. I voted against both of those bills.

On a positive note we managed to finally get through a bank trap ban. The bill was amended in the House of Delegates to take effect October 1, 2000 and to have Department of Natural Resources (DNR) do a study and report back by December, 1999. St. Mary's County Delegate John Wood, who opposed the bank trap ban, I am sure feels a DNR study will prevent that ban from going into effect. The other members of the delegation, myself, and Delegates Slade and O'Donnell supported the outright ban included in the original bill.

I secured an Attorney General's opinion that a DNR study would not supersede the bill. Only the General Assembly can do that. I can assure all supporters of a bank trap ban that as long as I am in the legislature I'll do everything I can to see to it that the ban sticks. After discussing that with many of the bill's upporters, we decided to support the amended bill.

I have written previously about my desire to see a light rail transportation corridor preserved in the county. We might not need light rail for the next 20 or 50 years, although I am more inclined to believe we'll need it more sooner than later. A bill sponsored by me passed on that last day calling for the state to do an in-house study of the feasibility of using all or part of the old railroad right-of-way through Charles and St. Mary's counties. The bill requires the state to solicit opinions from local officials, the utilities now using the
right-of-way and citizens (at 110 locations) who have been granted access over it.

This bill took a circuitous route through the legislature. Originally it called for a study, but Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) opposed it because they said it was too costly. Then the Senate Finance Committee amended it to put the onus on St. Mary's County Government. They opposed it because they said it was too costly for them. So then MDOT Secretary David Winstead wrote a letter supporting an in-house study. With that letter in hand I urged the House committee to amend the bill back to a study; it came out that way with the help of Delegate John Slade of St. Mary's County. I am pleased and believe this study will be a valuable tool for public officials for years to come.

Also I have previously written about my bill which created an Animal Friendly License Plate. The bill passed the Senate but was severely amended in the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, chaired by Del. Wood. As amended the plate became an organizational plate instead of a commemorative plate. That means it would be sold by local groups instead of the Motor Vehicle Administration. Delegate George Owings (Calvert/Anne Arundel) was most helpful in getting an amendment on the bill which allows a standardized motto to be put on the plate instead of the name of the organization. Additionally, the bill still has a committee appointed by the governor to come up with a standardized logo for the plate. It thus will look like a commemorative plate, but won't really be one.

The groups who worked with me to support this plate to raise money for subsidized spay/neuter programs, while upset that the bill didn't come out as originally intended, also believe that it was a good first step.
They have agreed to work together to see to it that in its current form the program is a success. I would like to thank all the groups, including St. Mary's Animal Welfare League (its vice president Lorraine Greenleaf and her Chihuahua Itty Bitty were the hit of the House hearing), the St. Mary's County Commissioners, who wrote a letter of support. This was a bill for which there was a tremendous amount of support and that support meant a lot in convincing legislators to pass this bill.

We are now settled into a end-of-session mode. Our district office in Great Mills is open Monday through Friday at 20247 Point Lookout Road (301-994-2826) and our Annapolis office is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 215 James Senate Office Building (1-800-492-7122, extension 3673). I look forward to seeing all of you soon at one of the many functions in St. Mary's County that I will be attending over the next few months.

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]