County Comment: Commissioners Meet With Local Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly

County Comment
Commissioners Meet With Local Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In its regular meeting on November 27th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners met with members of the Local Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to discuss recommendations for County initiatives for the upcoming session in Annapolis.
Attending were Del. Leroy Myers, Chair of the County delegation, Delegates Richard Weldon, Bob McKee and Chris Shank along with Senator Don Munson.
The County's list was previously approved by the Board, and made up of items identified by Commissioners and County staff as requiring legislative action.
Revision of enabling legislation regarding calculation and application of the Building Excise Tax was the most prominent action requested. The excise tax task force mandated by the legislature made recommendations and the Commissioners responded to those recommendations, resulting in the request to amend the enabling legislation to give the County ability to have a range in setting the tax, and calculate for inflation. The range would be from $3 to $5 per square foot on new residential construction. Commissioners cited a need to reach a revenue neutral position on projects in the 6-year list of Capital Improvement needs and ability to adjust the rate for the efcets of inflation. The request would also divorce workforce housing from enabling legislation and remove other exemptions in the original legislation. Doubling of the tax for requests to construct 26 or more houses per subdivision would stay in the ordinance. Clarification of some of the language of ordinance was also requested.
The Commissioners requested Delegation support in maintaining the structure and financing of Local Management Boards, in monitoring impact of the proposed Chesapeake Bay 2010 Fund on local governments, and consideration of a means to address the provision of livery services for delivery of bodies to the State Medical Examiner for autopsies. The service is a function of the State Medical Examiner's Office, and no County in Maryland provides subsidies for the service.
The Delegates heard requests for update and revision of Title 7 of the Code of Public Local Laws by removing obsolete items pertaining to the Road Engineer; for enabling legislation to pass an ordinance that prohibits the parking of large commercial trucks on public roadways, especially in subdivisions; for the ability to raise the procurement thresholds from $25,000 to $50,000 for goods and services before public bidding is required.
Removal of specific regulations from the Code for Electrical Regulation and allowing the Electrical Board to adopt and revise regulations after review by the Board of County Commissioners; updating language in the Code of Public Local Laws regarding duties of County Clerk to accurately reflect present practices; and revision of language in the Code of Public Local Laws enabling the County sidewalk ordinance to be amended requiring homeowners to maintain sidewalks.
The Delegates received an update on the request for legislation banning "electronic tip jars" in the County. The devices, recently introduced in Allegheny County, do not provide pre-printed receipts, and cannot be monitored. A portion of the proceeds from these machines, which operate like slot machines, goes to developers in western states and would not benefit County organizations.
The Delegates requested further information and clarification on a request by the Sheriff's Department for enabling legislation to adopt a Special Events Ordinance governing the permitting and public service provisions of certain assemblies. The Sheriff's Department, the Health Department and the Permits and Inspections Department all have a stake in large public events. Sheriff Doug Mullendore has stated that organizers do not give the regulatory agencies enough lead time to coordinate personnel and necessary inspections and often operate without proper permits. The Delegates wanted to know what size and type of events would be included.
The legislative package was 41 pages in length. Delegate Bob McKee commented that if the County's form of government is changed to Charter Home Rule, about half of that package would have been unnecessary. That form of government expands the ability of Counties to make local laws.