- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Voters should decide whether the quasi-public Maryland Economic Development Corp. needs broader power to develop property, according to activists who vowed yesterday to fight the agency's plan to help Anne Arundel County build a golf course.
State lawmakers approved a bill last week that gives the nonprofit corporation broader authority to finance construction projects throughout Maryland.
The bill originated after the county tapped the corporation to sell bonds to finance a new 36-hole public golf course near Annapolis. The owner of a private golf course near Annapolis threatened to sue, saying the agency's charter only gives it power to invest in projects where it won't compete with private businesses.
Anne Arundel's state senators sought the bill to protect the corporation's involvement in the golf course project from the legal challenge. Both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly which was scheduled to conclude its annual 90-day session last night overwhelmingly approved the bill last week.
"We think voters across the state need to take a closer look at this," said Noel Levy, vice chairman of Baltimore County-based Citizens for Property Rights.
Mr. Levy's organization said it will join forces with the Maryland Taxpayers Association, a group of limited-government activists, to collect the 46,128 signatures needed before June 30 to force a referendum on the legislation.
The referendum question would appear on ballots during the state gubernatorial election in November 2002.
If the Maryland Economic Development Corp. (Medco) tries to sell bonds before the activists reach the June 30 deadline for their referendum petition, they will seek an injunction against the golf course project, Mr. Levy said.
In the meantime, the groups are asking Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, to veto the legislation. They said this is unlikely to happen, though, because his administration supported the bill during the legislative session.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Glendening said yesterday she did not know the governor's intentions, but added he usually signs bills if they are supported by the lawmakers from the jurisdiction where the legislation originates.
Hans F. Mayer, Medco executive director, said the bill does not give his agency unlimited power.
Medco only becomes involved in projects when it is invited to participate, and does not try to compete with private businesses, he said.
"We don't initiate projects. We're asked to participate by the state or local government," Mr. Mayer said.
The General Assembly established Medco in 1984 to develop projects in economically distressed areas. Its first project was the redevelopment of a shuttered aircraft plant in Western Maryland.
In recent years, the agency has helped build student housing at the University of Maryland at College Park and a manufacturing facility for Rockville drug maker Human Genome Sciences Inc.
The opponents seeking the referendum said they hope their campaign will hurt Medco's ability to finance the Anne Arundel golf course.
"We expect it will have a chilling effect on their ability to raise money from the bond market," said Kenneth R. Timmerman, president of Maryland Taxpayers Association, a group of limited-government activists who oppose the plan. Mr. Timmerman also reports for Insight, a magazine published by the parent company of The Washington Times.
The Medco legislation was one of the few business-related bills to generate noise during an unusually quiet General Assembly session.
Business interests pursued a modest agenda, winning approval for a task force to study traffic problems in the D.C. area and tax credits for workers seeking to upgrade their job skills.

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