Bel Air proposal invites abuses, official says Without hearings, resolutions would have power of law

June 13, 1993|By Aminah Franklin | Aminah Franklin,Staff Writer

A Bel Air commissioner criticized a proposal to giv resolutions the power of law without public hearings before votes, saying the measure would invite abuse of power.

"We would be making law in a vacuum with earplugs and blindfolds on, and that's no way to do it," Commissioner Susan McComas said of the proposal, the subject of a June 21 public hearing.

"Our job as government officials is to ensure there is a system of checks and balances. And if we allow this change, we will be allowing the government to legislate unchecked."

Under the proposal, the commissioners could pass laws without public knowledge because resolutions, unlike ordinances, require no public hearings before a vote, Ms. McComas said.

Bel Air's charter defines a resolution as "a formal expression of opinion, will or intent adopted by vote of the Board of the Town Commissioners."

The change, proposed by Town Administrator William N. McFaul, would expand the definition to include "a law, a municipal regulation."

Mr. McFaul denied that the proposed change is meant to give lawmakers more legislative freedom, saying it is merely a "housekeeping item" that would make the town's charter consistent with the state's constitution, which defines a law as a resolution or an ordinance.

"All the change is supposed to do is create a symmetry, a balance between our charter and state law," he said.

But Ms. McComas called the change unnecessary and said it would allow lawmakers to pass an ordinance when they're under pressure to move quickly.

"Making quick-fire decisions like that," she said, "would promote haphazard planning rather than well-thought-out plans."

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