Task force says home rule would bring government closer to people

August 27, 2003|by TARA REILLY

The Washington County Commissioners are considering a proposal to change the county's form of government from commission to a type of home rule, a move that would give the County Commissioners more power to pass local laws.

The proposal was made by a task force created by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Washington County and the Greater Hagerstown Committee. The group held meetings last year.

Members of the group told the commissioners Tuesday night that switching to code home rule would bring local government closer to the people and lessen the commissioners' dependency on the Maryland General Assembly.


It also would speed up the adoption process of local laws.

Commissioner John C. Munson said it would take a lot to convince him to support such a change.

"I think the way it is now, there's a better balance of power," Munson said. "I don't think I'd ever vote for this."

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

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.

Laws proposed by the commissioners under code home rule would be subject to voter referendum.

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.

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