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Ballot Homework: 15 County Charter Changes You Will Help Decide

Some of these items resolve long-standing disputes on the County Council, while others fix newer problems.

When Anne Arundel County voters arrive at the polls, they'll not only be voting on the DREAM Act and same-sex marriage, but also deciding the fate of 15 Anne Arundel County charter amendments—ranging from how convicted county councilmen should be treated to enacting an August recess for the Council.

In an attempt to make these 15 items more digestible once you arrive at the polls, I will disassemble the legalese into a more understandable language, and explain context when necessary. Some of these items resolve long-standing disputes on the County Council, while others fix newer problems.

Question A—Gives county departments more time to file their budgets. It also moves the start of the 60-day window for budget deliberation by the County Council from April 15 to May 1. It does not change the budget deadline. (Resolution 54-12)

Question B—Allows the County Council to remove the county executive from office if the official is convicted of, or pleads no contest to, a felony charge, or a crime of moral turpitude or malfeasance. It requires five of the seven Council members to vote in favor of it. (Resolution 32-12)

Related:  Felony Conviction Could Mean Ouster from County Council

Question C—Same as Question B, only for a County Councilmember. (Resolution 33-12)

Question D—Allows State Central Committee to fill a County Council vacancy if the Council cannot decide within 30 days. (Resolution 45-12)

Related: 

  • County Council Declares Jones' Seat Vacant
  • Who Should Choose a Replacement Executive or Councilman? 

Question E—Creates a separate fund to be used explicitly to accrue employee retiree healthcare benefits. As it stands, these funds are taken from the county's general fund, which waxes and wanes along with other expenditures. (Resolution 34-12)

Question F—Would restrict the power of the county executive's veto rights to comprehensive rezoning items only. As it stands, the executive can remove individual provisions from any Council legislation. (Resolution 47-12)

Related: Slew of County Charter Changes Clog November Ballots

Question G—Changes the start of a county councilmember's term from the day after a successful election bid to the first Monday in December following an election. (Resolution 48-12)

Question H—Gives County Council members the month of August off from their regular meetings. They would still perform their elected duties, but would not meet to vote on legislation for August. (Resolution 40-12)

Question I—Requires an annual, third-party audit of the county government. This is what has been practiced in recent years, but the current charter only requires an audit every four years. (Resolution 38-12)

Question J—The change would require that any money gained by the county from the sale of bonds would be spent exclusively on capital improvement projects. (Resolution 50-12)

Question K— Expands the number of members on the county's Charter Review Commission from five to seven, giving each councilman one appointment each. (Resolution 35-12)

Question L—Limits the county's Board of Appeals members to serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms. (Resolution 35-12)

Question M—Same as Question L, only for the county's Ethics Commission. (Resolution 49-12)

Question N—Clarifies that if the county executive leaves a bill unsigned, or unvetoed, the bill is automatically approved 10 days after the executive was presented it.  (Resolution 39-12)

Question O—Allows the county executive to distribute electronic copies of the  budget. The current charter requires paper copies to be sent to all Council members. Welcome to the 21st century. (Resolution 55-12)

I hope that helps clarify some of the legal language used in the ballot questions. If you're interested in more explanation, some Council members have explained where they stand on each of the questions.

Susan Cochran November 04, 2012 at 01:29 PM
It is commendable that the Patch is giving information to voters. I want to correct and clarify three question explanations. For more detailed explanations and pros and cons see the League of Women Voters Voters Guide at aa.lwvmd.org. or VOTE411.org. Question H. The amendment provides an August legislative recess, with the option of an August legislative session by a majority vote of the County Council. See Res. 40-12. Question J. (to clarify) The amendment would require that bond premiums generated from the issuance of County bonds be used only for the funding of capital improvements financed by the bonds. This means the premiums could not be put in the general fund for other county expenses. Res. 50-12 Question O. There is no definition of "copy" in the county charter and no requirement that a copy be on paper. Res. 55-12
Susan Cochran November 04, 2012 at 01:38 PM
A few corrections and clarifications are needed for the Ballot Homework article. See my previous comment.
Amy Leahy November 05, 2012 at 12:34 AM
It's been many years since I worked in the County Budget Office but we always prepared hard copies of the budget to council and their staff. Electronic copies are not the same thing and not nearly as easy to review. When I attended the League of Women Voters 'informational and non-partisan' discussion of the ballot questions, this particular question was discussed and it was never said this provision affected the materials given to the county council. Question for the authors of this article…where is it written these materials are what the county council receives for their budget review?
Brutus Henry November 05, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Vote AGAINST Amendment H so the County Council does not receive an increase in pay and benefits when the county is in the midst of a severe budget crisis. This amendment may even be a conflict of interest, since the Council members proposed and approved an increase to their pay and benefits. This amendment above all others demonstrates the dysfunction of the county government because this same government has asked county employees to take decreases in pay and benefits to alleviate the budget crisis. Additionally, this same council has approved increases in fees and taxes on residents while decreasing services including cutting curbside trash collection in half. Like the U.S. Congress, this County Council has the hubris to vote on increasing their pay and benefits in times of severe economic distress for the citizens.
Brutus Henry November 05, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Here is a link to a PDF file the goes over all the Ballot Questions. http://www.theamericanview.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/BallotRecommendationsV3.pdf Question A: Against Question B: For Question C: For Question D: Against Question E: For Question F: For Question G: For Question H: Against Question I: For Question J: Against Question K: For Question L: For Question M: For Question N: For Question O: For
Tom November 06, 2012 at 02:07 AM
i concur.. A, D, H, J = Against. everything else For. And don't for No on State Questions 1-7 all of them..
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