EAGLE ALERT: Code Home Rule initiative put into motion
Thursday, June 15, 2006 5:21 PM
By Jim Joyner
The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday took the first step toward placing Code Home Rule on the November ballot as a voter referendum.
By consensus, the commissioners announced their "intent" to place Code Home Rule before voters - essentially kicking off a process that requires at least two public hearings, then a formal vote by the Board before Aug. 21 in order to place it on the Nov. 7 election ballot.
Code Home Rule is a change of the county's form of government that would expand on the county's ability to enact certain types of legislation without approval by the General Assembly. The General Assembly would still hold the authority over issues including new taxes, but County government would obtain bonding authority, the ability to enact impact fees and could even change the number of commissioners and establish a district form of government - without General Assembly approval.
"We'd still be obligated to go to the general Assembly for certain things," noted Commissioner President Julia Gouge.
Kim Millender said Code Home Rule includes many of the provisions of charter government, but without the need to establish a formal charter, which usually sets up an executive and legislative branch. County Attorney
Commissioner Perry Jones noted that the board has received many phone calls and letters about making Code Home Rule a voter referendum, and said, "I was skeptical at first ... (but) I'm for this (placing it on the ballot)."
By law, the commissioners must record their "intent" to place Code Home Rule on the ballot, then must hold at least two public hearings, giving 30 days notice. After that, the board must vote to formally place Code Home Rule on the ballot - all this must be done prior to Aug. 21 in order to be done this year.
But the commissioners also said they hope to go farther, and have a series of informational meetings over the summer - either before, along with or after the public hearings. Millender said the University of Maryland Intergovernmental Service Department has expressed a willingness to help run information meetings to help residents grasp the differences in the government forms.
Millender said staff will work out a tentative schedule and return to the commissioners next week for review.
Gouge expressed some concern that the time frame may be too quick to make voters comfortable with the Code Home Rule proposal, and said the public hearing will, she hoped, let residents tell the board if it's too short a period to educate the public. "Is that really enough time? That's what we need to hear."
Commissioner Dean Minnich backed the effort, but said the hearings and informational meetings will be crucial. "Everybody will know what we're doing, when we're doing it, and why."
E-mail Jim Joyner at email@example.com.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Commissioners to put Code Home Rule on Ballot
Kevin Dayhoff: www.westgov.net Westminster Maryland Online www.westminstermarylandonline.net http://kevindayhoffwestgov-net.blogspot.com/