The 10-county partnership founded with the help of Commissioners President Blaine Young and partially funded by Frederick County boasted a 44 percent success rate in its recent state lobbying efforts.

The first report for the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition also shows it has spent $27,500 on lobbyists and $8,578.69 hosting events for state lawmakers since the group was founded in December 2011. Group leaders are visiting each member county to present the report, which showcases the coalition's accomplishments and sets goals.

Young said the alliance's efforts, combined with the fact that almost 1 million Marylanders live in member counties, have gotten the attention of state leaders.

"They view us as a bona fide organization," said Young, who was a driving force behind the coalition.

The group started with four member jurisdictions, but has grown to include Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Somerset, Washington and Wicomico counties. The rural leaders reason that combining forces will improve their chances of influencing a legislature largely controlled by more populous regions of the state.

The group's lobbying campaign focused on nine pieces of legislation during the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly, opposing the governor's package of new gun control laws and supporting a bill that would create a task force to evaluate health care in rural areas. They also worked on six bills related to land use or environmental issues.

Four of the nine bills ended up succeeding or failing as the coalition had hoped, but the group's attempts to influence lawmakers faltered for five other pieces of legislation.

However, Allegany County Commissioners President Michael McKay, chairman of the coalition, said the group is aiming at something bigger than winning on individual proposals.

"The position of the Rural Counties Coalition is not 'our way or the highway.' It's to explain how the bills are affecting the rural counties," McKay said.

Meetings between coalition members and key state leaders have helped bring more attention to the rural perspective, McKay said. Though lawmakers haven't always been willing to kill legislation the rural counties dislike, they have been open to tempering it, Young said.

Another major step for the group came in 2012, when the Maryland Association of Counties formally recognized the coalition as an affiliate partner, Young said.

As of May 10, the group has raised $48,000 and spent a little more than $36,000 during its existence, according to the report's financial overview.

Member governments have not given equally to the cause, the report showed. Frederick County made two $5,000 contributions, while Caroline County, a newer member of the alliance, has put only $1,000 into the pot.

The coalition paid powerful lobbyist Bruce Bereano $10,000 for each of the two legislative sessions he acted in the group's interests. During the 2012 session, the group also hired lobbyist William Miles for $7,500 to work on its behalf.

After all expenses were paid, the coalition ended up with almost $12,000 in the bank. McKay said the group will look to remain "lean and mean" and grow without significantly increasing costs.

This week, during the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference, McKay said he will be trying to persuade other jurisdiction leaders to become coalition members.

The coalition believes Garrett, Harford, Queen Anne's and Talbot counties could potentially join its ranks, according to the annual report. McKay said the group is also interested in expanding into the agricultural parts of more densely populated counties.

Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.

(1) comment

armillary

$10,000. of Frederick county taxpayer's money spent on an organization created solely to increase Blaine's political visibility. To pay for lobbyists to represent Blaine's extreme 'my way or the highway' views. The result? He's now well known around the state as the tea party crackpot from Frederick county, and we are known as the fools who put him in office. Blaine could have spent his own campaign money to do this, but he prefers to spend your money, and save his.

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