An attempt by a member of the Baltimore County Council to get a law passed that would keep the faces of elected officials from being printed in publications financed by taxpayers was defeated last night by a 5-2 vote.
Freshman Councilman William A. Howard 4th, R-6th, made a valiant attempt to win converts to his cause but succeeded in getting support only from Councilman Donald C. Mason, D-7th, the bill's co-sponsor.
"This is not entirely without precedent," Howard said. "Our founding fathers prohibited using the figureheads of living persons on coins and the heads of public officials are kept off postage stamps until 10 years after their deaths."
Howard said his measure, which would require those who violated the law to pay for the cost of the publication that displayed their pictures, was "in response to abuses in the past administration."
Howard has argued that former County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen unfairly used county brochures for his own benefit.
However, Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger 3rd, D-3rd, a Rasmussen ally, noted that the voters get to judge every elected official, as they did last year in defeating Rasmussen's bid for a second term.
Ruppersberger said the bill would violate the First Amendment right of free speech and would interfere with the separation of powers. He suggested that the council could control any abuses of county publications by its power to approve expenditures.
"There are too many laws on the books already," Ruppersberger concluded.
Four of his colleagues agreed with him and killed the bill.
In other action, the council approved changing a zoning regulation to allow licensed day-care mothers to care for as many as eight children in their homes without seeking a special zoning exception. The measure, which was backed by various county agencies, parents, and day-care providers, brings the county into compliance with state law.
hTC Only Mason dissented, saying that eight children are too many for one day-care provider to care for safely.