Revised Howard disclosure bill drafted Developers seeking rezoning are target

August 16, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County developers seeking rezoning of property would have to disclose their political contributions to County Council members deciding the zoning cases under a bill drafted by two Republican legislators.

As first-term delegates, Martin G. Madden and John S. Morgan, who represent sections of Howard and Prince George's counties, sought but failed last year to prohibit elected officials statewide from voting on rezoning requests by developers who contributed to the officials' political campaigns. Their controversial bill died in a House committee.

Now the delegates, who ran as a political team in the last election, are coming back with similar but more modest legislation. This time, their bill is limited to Howard County and wouldn't bar zoning officials from voting if they had received contributions.

Instead, the draft bill would require all developers seeking rezoning to disclose the political contributions they made to county Zoning Board members, who also are members of the County Council.

Mr. Morgan noted "enormous increases in development pressures on Howard County" and said, "There is a perception in the community that developers have an undue influence on the council elections, and it is felt in the zoning process, too."

The disclosure bill limited to Howard County "has a pretty good chance" of getting the backing of the county's legislative delegation, he said. Such support is pivotal in determining whether a local bill passes in the General Assembly.

County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said he had "no problem" with the intent of the disclosure bill but questioned the motivation behind it.

"The fact is that we have to disclose that information anyway in our campaign financial statements," Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray suggested that the two delegates "are trying to deflect attention from their own political contributions, particularly political action committee money that incumbents typically receive, which may influence their votes on state legislation."

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