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Officials discuss code home rule

September 15, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

State legislators would have less "little stuff" to deal with in Annapolis if Washington County's form of government was changed to code home rule, giving lawmakers more time to focus on major issues, two local delegates said Wednesday night.

The Washington County Commissioners, on the other hand, would be given more authority to approve local laws concerning a variety of issues, such as animal and weed control regulations.

"Less of the little stuff would come to Annapolis, and that doesn't bother me," said Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington.

"I don't think you elected us to worry about weed control," said Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany. "We have enough to do in Annapolis."

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McKee, Myers, officials from Allegany County and Victor K. Tervala, of the Institute for Governmental Service, spoke Wednesday at a home rule forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Washington County.

The forum was at St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown. About 40 people attended.

The commissioners have agreed to appoint a code home rule task force to study a possible switch from the commission form of government.

Code home rule would give the commissioners the power to enact, amend or repeal public local law through a resolution without prior state legislative approval.

They could not enact any new tax, license fee or franchise fee that wasn't already approved by the General Assembly, according to Tervala's book, "Home Rule Options in Maryland."

Tervala states in the book, however, that code counties may "fix and collect development impact fees" to pay for improvements required to accommodate new construction and development. They also may impose a development excise tax to pay for school expansions or for purchasing development rights on agricultural land, the book states.

Tervala said at the forum that code counties also may impose a transfer tax.

Washington County already has excise and transfer taxes in place.

Ordinances approved by code counties would be subject to a referendum and voted on by the public, the book states.

Should the commissioners support a change to code home rule, the matter would be put on the ballot in the next election and voted on by county residents.

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