Delegation OKs presentation of ethics bill, kills marriage license fee increase

January 28, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

The Howard County legislative delegation approved five more bills yesterday to present to the General Assembly. They included a controversial ethics bill aimed at the county's rezoning process and another that would establish a county economic development authority.

The delegation also killed three bills, including one that would have allowed the county to raise marriage license fees to help fund domestic violence programs.

The senators and delegates will meet again Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis to consider at least two more bills. One addresses filing disclosures of campaign contributions. The other deals with the protection of cemeteries.

The delegation approved an ethics bill yesterday that its supporters said would shed more light on the relationship between developers and public officials.

The bill would apply to anyone with a 5 percent interest in a property under consideration for rezoning. It would require an applicant to disclose contributions of $500 or more to a Howard County official over a four-year period.

Del. Virginia Thomas, D-13A, has criticized the Republican-backed bill as ineffectual. Yesterday, she tried to expand the disclosure requirements to include attorneys, engineers and architects retained by applicants as well as contributions to political action committees and slates of candidates.

She also asked to lower the disclosure requirement to $100 over four years.

"It doesn't take that much to win elections in Howard County," she said.

"The zoning process is already very burdensome," countered Del. John S. Morgan, R-13B. None of Ms. Thomas' amendments stuck and the bill passed 6-2.

In fact, it was a fairly tough day for Ms. Thomas, one of three Democrats in the nine-member delegation. A bill she proposed that would have allowed an increase in marriage license fees from $35 to $45 to fund domestic violence programs died.

Mr. Morgan said he opposed it because it put an undue burden on couples starting out. Del. Martin G. Madden, R-13B, said he would draft a bill for the next voting session to raise money for domestic violence programs through the county's divorce filing fee.

Mr. Madden has opposed the marriage license bill, arguing that he sees no connection between marriage and domestic violence.

The delegation also approved a bill that would create an economic development authority to help the county attract jobs and compete with the surrounding area for businesses.

There had been some debate over who should appoint people to the nine-member board. Some legislators had objected to an earlier proposal that would have permitted the county chamber of commerce to choose several members.

The delegation eventually agreed that the county executive would make all appointments subject to the approval of the county council.

The delegation will meet again today at 7:30 p.m. for a public hearing on statewide issues in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

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