ANNAPOLIS — Carroll legislators dubbed it the "goldfish bill," which it would have been in the General Assembly -- a tiny fish in an overflowing pondof issues.
They didn't find much merit in the proposal -- which would have prohibited giving away animals as prizes at events such as volunteer fire company carnivals -- except that it provided a few good chuckles about the perilous lives of goldfish. The legislators rejected the proposal with little debate last week.
But the legislation was important to several groups, including the Carroll 4-H Rabbit Club, the Carroll Humane Society and the County Agricultural Commission. Those groups claim that the animals often suffer because they are given away to children who don't want them and don't know how to care for them.
"I'm really disappointed," said Catherine Rauschenberg of Woodbine, leader of the Carroll 4-H Rabbit Club. "We have child-abuse protection laws. A rabbit is no more able to take care of itself than a small child."
Rauschenberg isn't the only one displeased with the delegation's actions concerning county legislation. County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said the delegation "showed darn little respect" to the Board of Commissioners in rejectingor deferring four of its eight proposals and in implying that "we just haven't done our homework."
"I detected snickering and a 'holier-than-thou' attitude" in previous meetings, he said.
CommissionerJulia W. Gouge said she was "surprised" because the legislators had not indicated they opposed several requests at a December meeting.
"I would have felt better if they had told us what they were thinking and feeling rather than letting us read it in the newspaper," she said. "Apparently, we have a lot of work to do (on the relationship), so this type of thing is not normal."
But Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said he agreed with the delegation's decisions and did not feel slighted.
"It's been working this way for a long time, and I don't think the county has suffered," he said. "They have the right to meet among themselves and decide how they feel."
The delegation rejected proposals that would have imposed a 3 percent hotel tax and required home sellers living within a half-mile of existing or planned quarries to notify prospective buyers of mining.
The delegation tabled a proposal that would have allowed the commissioners to establish a reserve fund for economic emergencies because procedures for using the account had not been established. Gouge said the legislation should have been introduced.
Three of the rejected proposals could have been enacted by the commissioners if the county had chartergovernment, said Lippy, who added he's neutral on that issue.
Thelegislators advised the commissioners to have a public hearing on their requests. Public opposition to proposals at the delegation's public hearing was persuasive, legislators say.
Lippy took issue with that advice, saying the two meetings between the commissioners and the delegation were open and that many residents wrote and called with their opinions.
"I don't think they had a special antenna up for the will of the people," he said. "Ours was just as high."
Humane Society Director Nicky Ratliff said she doesn't believe firecompanies will come up with a solution independently on the animal giveaways, which make money at carnivals.
"I guess (the delegation) didn't want to take harassment for defending goldfish," Ratliff said. "They might have looked foolish."
The notification proposal was supported by Realtors, said Gouge, but opposed by some affected property owners.
"We thought it would be helpful to people buying," she said. "This is what we've heard the last three years in the mining region."