New hurdle for home rule in Carroll Charter government vote: Legislation needed to clarify possible filing glitch.

March 10, 1998

HOW DIFFICULT can it be for Carroll's political leaders to do the right thing when it comes to letting citizens make a choice on their form of government?

The latest wrinkle is the refusal of county commissioners and the county's legislative delegation to support a bill to extend the filing deadline for charter-office candidates, in the event charter government is approved by voters in the June 9 special election.

The state cutoff for primary election candidates is July 6, or three days before charter government would become effective July again, assuming referendum approval). The proposed charter sets Aug. 8 as the filing deadline for the September primary, in apparent conflict with the state law.

The state attorney general's office says there is likely no problem with the later date but warns that a legal challenge could arise.

That's why a need exists for clarifying state legislation, to sweep away those possible challenges. It should be an easy matter, given the General Assembly's practice of automatically passing county delegation-sponsored bills.

But several members of the Carroll delegation say they don't want the legislation. Two of three county commissioners are opposed to asking the delegation. And one senator says he wouldn't support the bill unless a majority of commissioners favor it.

This petty maneuvering stems from the opposition to charter government of the two commissioners and most of the Carroll legislative delegation. But that's no reason to refuse to clarify an issue that would only be effective if charter was approved by the voters in June.

Charter advocates have fought hard to finally bring the issue to referendum. A grass-roots petition campaign forced the commissioners to appoint a charter-writing board. Nine months later, a majority of the board approved the proposed charter for referendum.

Now opponents of charter see a way to muddy the waters, to foil through technicality a transition to charter. It's unresponsive of these so-called public servants. It's also a financial gamble, because Carroll would have to defend the deadline extension in court if it is challenged.

Charter's fate in Carroll is decidedly uncertain. But the legal date for the candidate filing deadline must be made decidedly certain.

Pub Date: 3/10/98

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