A house divided Legislative delegation, commissioners need more civil discussion of issues.

April 22, 1996

IF THERE WAS any doubt about the breakdown in relations between Carroll County's legislative delegation and its commissioners, the General Assembly session that ended this month should sweep them aside.

More than a jealous division of authority, there appears to be cynical disrespect. There's no creative tension at work here, but a counterproductive competition that threatens to undermine the already limited influence of the county in Annapolis. Local decisions, or at least the laws to enable those decisions to be made, need the approval of the legislature. It's a fact of life, even one faced (to a lesser extent) by counties with charter government.

To be effective, legislators and county government must be in sync, in agreement on the basic legislative package for the good of the county. Witness the recent success in Baltimore County, where a new spirit of teamplay infuses the delegation and county officials.

This doesn't mean rubber-stamp legislators, or imperious commissioners. It does mean a responsible, mature discussion of the county's wishes and needs, and of effective ways to achieve the necessary state approval. Three issues defined this petty power struggle in the 1996 session.

First, the delegation's promotion of legislation to eliminate adequate-facilities standards for minor subdivisions, despite the lack of a public hearing and despite the measure's obvious conflict with land-use planning in Carroll.

Second, the delegation's refusal to submit legislation authorizing public referendum on a real estate transfer tax to fund farmland preservation and infrastructure projects.

Third, the abrupt withdrawal by legislators of a county bill to establish a special taxing district to help Lineboro fix its sewer problems. Among the delegation's chief objections: the lack of a public hearing prior to the session and excessive taxing authority for the commissioners. That cynical double-standard typifies the problem, because the Lineboro citizenry were denied even the right to vote on the special tax that they requested.

Before the next General Assembly session, legislators and commissioners must work to conduct open, civil discussions of public issues in advance so Carroll countians' interests can be more effectively represented.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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