A 'local bill' that isn't Sen. Haines' charade: Committee should stop bill that would harm Carroll farmland.

March 28, 1996

THIS MORNING, members of the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 649, sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Haines. The committee members would be doing the people of Carroll County -- as well as the rest of the state -- a great favor by killing it before it reaches the House floor.

This ill-conceived measure shouldn't have gotten this far. Billed as legislation to save farmland, it would actually end up destroying productive agricultural land and create havoc with efforts to manage Carroll County's explosive residential growth. If passed as written, as many as 9,000 lots would be exempted from the county's adequate facilities test and the long-range planning process.

Its many deficiencies aside, however, this bill should be shelved because it has advanced through the General Assembly under a false flag. It has been masquerading as a county bill, which it definitely is not. Under legislative protocol and as a favor to the county delegation sponsoring the measure, senators and delegates from other counties routinely approve county bills without question. The operative assumption is that the local community favors the measure and simply needs legislative approval to enact it.

In the case of Senate Bill 649, the community never received an opportunity to voice its opinion. It was not included in the package of county bills that Carroll's delegation reviewed early in the session, so citizens and county officials never had an opportunity to comment on it. If a hearing were to be held, two of the three county commissioners and a large number of residents would vigorously oppose it.

Mr. Haines maintains that since the delegation unanimously supported the measure, it should be treated as a county bill. Now, it has come out that several delegation members failed to read the bill they approved or did not understand its full implications. In addition, Ellen Willis, the newly appointed delegate, opposes it.

Clearly, this is no "county bill." If Mr. Haines still believes in the rightness of his argument, let him re-submit the proposal after a local hearing next year. The House Commerce and Government Matters Committee should put an end to the charade that is Senate Bill 649.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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