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Is the time right to enact charter goverment here?

April 19, 2001

Is the time right to enact charter goverment here?



Late in Maryland General Assembly's 2001 session, Walter Baker, an Eastern Shore senator and chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, decided that Washington County's proposal to hike marriage license fees by $5 to help fund a battered women's shelter wasn't a good idea.

Approving a hike to $65 would have put Washington County in a tie with Frederick County for the most expensive license in the state, and in Baker's view, might have priced the institution of marriage out of reach for young folks.

"I'm for marriage instead of living in sin," Baker said, adding that "I think it's a fine insdtitution. We're going to tax it out of existence."

Now you may want to argue with Baker's reasoning, which seems to be that people in love will be deterred from getting married if it costs them more than, for example, a night out at a fancy restaurant.

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But what is undeniable is that Baker was able to do what he did only because Washington County has the commissioner form of government, which means that many local proposals must be approved by the Maryland legislature.

For example, in this session, local lawmmakers introduced bills to allow fire truck drivers to put on their vehicles' emergency blights when backing into a fire station. If the county had charter government, that matter could have been handled locally.

The charter idea is being raised again by the League Women Voters because, among other things, some state lawmakers who represent part of the county live in neighboring Frederick County.

One of those, Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick, Washington, said the present arrangement gives the county more voices in the legislature, but said voters should take another look at charter.

It's been defeated twice before, in our view because local citizens didn't want to give the commissioners with any more power than they already had.

Has that view changed. or do voters want the extra checks and balances in place now? We look forward to a healthy community debate on this topic.

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