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Group wants home rule in county

February 05, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The League of Women Voters of Washington County on Tuesday asked the Washington County Commissioners to support a referendum on changing the county's commission form of government to a type of home rule.

The change to code home rule would lessen the local government's dependency on the Maryland General Assembly and give the commissioners more power to enact local laws, officials said.

John J. Porter, League president, said home rule would speed up the adoption process of local laws.

The League asked the commissioners to support the code home rule form of government by allowing the referendum on the November 2004 general election ballot.

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Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners plan to discuss a possible change with the delegation, probably in the summer after budget discussions are completed.

He said the public would need to be educated on the pros and cons of a switch.

Under state law, the commissioners would have to pass a resolution stating they support the code home rule form of government. That resolution would go to the Election Board for certification, and then the referendum would be placed on the ballot.

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 on the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to pass local laws. The duties of the commissioners are defined by the state.

A code home rule government would give the commissioners the power to enact, amend or repeal a public local law through a resolution, according to state law. They could not enact any new tax, license fee or franchise tax without General Assembly approval.

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.

Porter said a task force of area residents and leaders studying home rule recommended the referendum. Thirty-eight of the 41 task force members who voted said they wanted to change to a type of home rule government. Code home rule received the most votes, he said.

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