The Howard County delegation voted unanimously yesterday to approve an amended version of an ethics bill introduced by state Sen. Martin G. Madden, R-13, that would require financial disclosures from some of those appearing before the county's zoning board.
A version of that bill, which aims at ensuring fair and unbiased land zoning decisions, was approved by the delegation last year and cleared both chambers. But it was later vetoed by then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who objected that it was too narrow in scope.
"It should pass the Senate easily," said Mr. Madden, who has tried to get an ethics bill passed every year since he took office in 1991. "Hopefully it will do the same in the House."
Asked if he thought Gov. Parris N. Glendening would be more amenable to the revamped bill, Mr. Madden replied, "I would hope so. We can't do any worse."
The revised bill requires anyone appearing before the Howard County zoning board to disclose political campaign contributions of more than $500 to certain county officials during the preceding four years. The zoning board is made up of the County Council members.
Applications to the board are necessary to increase the number of building units allowed on a piece of land or to change the land classification -- from residential to commercial, for instance, or commercial to residential.
Mr. Madden said that two of the amendments made yesterday particularly improved the bill. They would require that:
* Zoning applicants disclose contributions exceeding $500 to the county executive.
* Those opposing an application to the zoning board disclose their contributions exceeding $500.
Mr. Madden said the disclosures would be required only when council members were acting as the zoning board because it is then that they may bestow a large economic benefit on a specific person. A board member might show bias toward an applicant who had provided a contribution to his or her campaign.
The delegation has worked to reword the bill since the 1995 General Assembly session began three weeks ago. Changes were made in light of a public hearing held in December, as well as suggestions from the county executive and the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
Additional amendments eliminated a jail term proposed for violators and increased the fine for violations from $1,000 to $5,000.
A public hearing is planned Tuesday in Ellicott City for Howard County residents to discuss this and other issues.