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Allegany officials discuss home rule

August 22, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

If Washington County's form of government changed to home rule, the County Commissioners would have more power to pass local laws, which would lessen the county's dependency on the Maryland General Assembly, Allegany County officials said Wednesday night.

Allegany County Administrator Vance C. Ishler and County Attorney William M. Rudd spoke at Clear Spring High School to the task force formed to explore the wisdom of a switch to home rule government in Washington County.

Allegany County operates under a type of home rule government.

The task force was created by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Washington County and the Greater Hagerstown Committee.

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The group will meet six times and then vote on whether it recommends a change.

There are three types of government in Maryland: code home rule, charter home rule and commission.

Washington County has a commission form of government, which means the county relies upon the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to pass local laws. The duties of the commissioners are defined by the state.

A charter home rule government does not need state authority to create laws or levy new taxes, and the powers and duties of the commissioners are defined by a county charter. A switch to a charter government must be approved by the voters and usually takes about two years, partially because a charter has to be written.

A code home rule government has similar powers as charter home rule but also has some restrictions that a charter government doesn't.

For example, a code home rule government cannot enact any new type of tax, license fee or franchise tax without the approval of the Maryland General Assembly, according to the book "Home Rule Options in Maryland."

Ishler said Allegany County pretty much only needs the local delegation to lobby for money in Annapolis because the county has the power to pass its own laws.

"We usually go just for money," Ishler said. "We don't have to ask for anything. We have an excellent relationship with our delegation, and it's probably because we don't have to ask them for very much."

Rudd said a home rule government also keeps the delegation from taking power away from the county commissioners.

Ishler said the Allegany County Commissioners have the authority to pass laws twice a month, rather than wait for the Maryland General Assembly to go into session.

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