DUNDALK — The General Assembly convened on Jan. 8 to inform the community about legislative topics that will arise. Del. Bob Long, R-6, hosted an unofficial town hall meeting to listen to the people’s concerns and see what can be done.
Originally, the town hall was suppose to feature Long, Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, R-6, and Del. Ric Metzgar, R-6, on Jan. 2, however Long was the only District 6 representative there that evening.
“I didn’t want people to misunderstand that Ric and Johnny weren’t going to be here because usually when we do a town hall meeting, we do it all together, but I made a promise when I got elected that I’ll be here to listen to the people’s problems and see what we can do,” Long said. “I felt it was my duty to still go.”
Some attendees were under the impression that Metzgar and Salling were going to be there and were unsure why they had “cancelled.”
Salling and Metzgar claimed that it was established long before the town hall that they would not be in attendance.
Salling said on Facebook that the week prior to the town hall, he had to go out of town to visit his sons in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“It was a long trip but my family comes first,” Salling said as an explanation as to why he was absent from the town hall. “Sorry to say that I had to leave, so I let my office and also one awe delegate know.”
According to Salling, he got a call that one of the delegates put on Facebook that the town hall was canceled because of him and Metzgar.
“No explanation was given, just that statement. Please know that I would never make a public statement like that without consulting with my team because it leaves all of our constituents in the wind and you deserve more. I am honored to be your senator and hold my position in the upmost regard to serve you and this delegation. Thank you in advance for understanding my sons and family needing me in the start of this 2020,” Salling said.
Metzgar said on Facebook that his staff made the delegates office aware that he would not be attending the town hall because of a prior commitment, several weeks ago.
Grammer was never supposed to be in attendance due to a prior engagement.
One of the main topics that Long discussed at the town hall was for his disdain for the Kirwan Commission.
The commission was originated by the former chancellor of the University of Maryland System, William “Brit” Kirwan, in the 2016 legislature. The commission is estimated to be a $3.8 billion increase in spending over the next decade. Close to half of the increase would come from county and city governments and the remainder from the state.
“I voted against it,” Long said. “It just throws more money at the educational system and it’s not going to make a difference because the funds will get lost in administrative salaries.”
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with the Kirwan Commission and that’s going to be big deal, not only on a county level, but state level. You can’t keep raising taxes. People are living paycheck to paycheck. It hits on some things, but doesn’t solve the problem,” he noted.
Metzgar said he is looking forward to the General Assembly with optimism.
“I’m very optimistic, even though there are lots of bills that are going to be introduced, lots of delegate issues, lots of hard-hitting issues. I will tell the tax payers right now that I am voting for no tax increases whatsoever. There’s probably going to be some opportunity for fees to increase and if that’s something we need to look at, we will,” Metzgar said.
“I am optimistic about the Baltimore County school construction. Im looking at that very openly, we need to take care of our children.”
Similar to Long, Metzgar feels there is no way that the state can get through the Kirwan Commission without putting a struggle on the counties.
“That part fears me because there are counties that are struggling with financial difficulties now. I don’t think that would be wise,” Metzgar said.
Grammer thinks this session could very well be one of the most “tumultuous sessions we see.”
“Of course we have education and educational funding, the corruption issue, which even the speaker of the house is speaking about, the crime issue in the Baltimore region which has grown to Baltimore County,” Grammer said. “And as of yesterday, we could be facing a new foreign entanglement. The issues that are being put in front of us are ever growing. My legislative package will probably be the biggest one that I have ever put forward to try to tackle a lot of these issues.”
Bruce Ebert, who is a Baltimore City resident, said he wanted to attend the town hall to see what legislatures will vote for or against at the Maryland General Assembly.
“Some of the representatives that represent me in the city don’t seem to be interested in the things I am interested in and they haven’t been any help,” Ebert said.
He believes some of the issues affect Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
Dundalk resident William Feuer said it’s very important to see what laws district leaders are supporting.
“Seeing what they’re going to be voting against, seeing the governor’s agenda is crucial,” Feuer said. “It’s important to promote the Dundalk and Essex area and it’s nice to see what our guys are doing at the state level.”
The next town hall meeting will be sometime in the spring.