Who runs Carroll County?

February 03, 1994

By introducing a bill to create a women's commission in Carroll County government against the wishes of his colleagues in Annapolis, Del. Larry LaMotte may be -- as Sen. Larry Haines put it -- violating delegation protocol.

Frankly, voters don't give a hoot about delegation protocol. They are much more interested in the fact that, on this issue, Delegate LaMotte is doing a much better job of representing them than is the rest of the county's legislative delegation.

In short, Sens. Charles Smelser and Larry Haines and Dels. Richard Dixon, Donald Elliott and Richard Matthews felt no obligation to follow the wishes of the county government's top elected officials on the women's commission issue.

Even though the commissioners held hearings, talked to constituents and ultimately decided by a vote of 2-1 to authorize the women's commission, their efforts apparently didn't count for much. Instead, the delegation, which has its own political agenda, chose to carry out the will of the minority -- Commissioner Donald I. Dell -- who opposed the panel.

The delegation's action further exposes the hypocrisy of the commissioner form of government, which voters decided to retain in 1992. As this issue illustrates, the commissioners don't have real power to settle local issues.

Delegate LaMotte hit the mark squarely when he characterized his colleagues' action as "presumptuous." Whether or not the county should have a women's commission should be a local decision, to be decided by local officials. Even if a majority of the delegation opposed the women's commission, it is not their call. The Maryland Constitution says it is up to the entire legislature to decide whether to authorize a women's commission for Carroll County.

The delegation should have given the commissioners the same courtesy it extends to virtually every Carroll resident. Members of the delegation typically introduce just about any bill on any matter proposed by any Tom, Dick or Harriet. Given that practice, they should have submitted the women's commission bill and then let its supporters make their case to the other 183 members of the General Assembly.

During the 1992 charter referendum, Carroll legislators said there was no need for charter government since they always introduce the commissioners' bills. That assertion, it is now clear, was merely empty rhetoric to preserve their power.

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