Legislators vote to kill impact-fee measure

School board-vacancy bill gets nod from lawmakers

February 26, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County ought to regain the right to impose impact fees on new development but not this year, state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman said before leading his fellow county legislators in voting to kill a bill to do just that.

The county delegation wrapped up work on local bills yesterday with lopsided votes to defeat the impact-fee bill and to approve a measure that would require school board vacancies to be filled by election when members resign in the first year of their term.

In addition, a measure that would restrict the location of methadone clinics in the county -- approved earlier by the delegation -- is slated for its first committee hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday before the House of Delegates' Health and Government Operations Committee.

Kittleman, a western county Republican who leads the county's senators, led the "no" votes on the impact-fee bill sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Democrat and a former county executive. County government had the power to impose impact fees until 1991, when it was revoked by state lawmakers, though none can remember why.

Kittleman said he agonized over the issue before reaching his decision.

"I've thought about this a lot," he said. "Philosophically, I think this ought to be a function of local government. I believe it's the right thing to do." But given the $1-per-square-foot excise tax on new homes that the delegation approved last week and the big increase in income taxes the county imposed last month, he said he could not vote to authorize another tax.

"I would vote for it next year," he said.

Bobo sought to soothe tax worries by explaining that her bill would return the authority to impose such a tax to the county but does not enact any new tax.

"I understand Senator Kittleman's reluctance to raise taxes again. This really raises no taxes at all," she said.

But Kittleman voted "no," followed by the other two state senators, which effectively killed the bill because the three senators and eight delegates must separately approve each local bill.

"The County Council and executive have shown a willingness to raise any tax," said Del. Warren E. Miller, a Republican, who also voted against the bill. "I'd like to keep the streak going," said Del. Gail H., Bates, a fellow Republican who followed suit. Only Bobo and Del. Neil F. Quinter, a Democrat, supported the bill once its fate was clear.

County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, said later that he had no intention of imposing impact fees, though he would "have liked to have it back in our arsenal.

"I don't get any personal or professional pleasure out of proposing a tax increase," he said.

The legislators approved an amended school board-vacancy bill that calls for electing a new school board member at the next opportunity if a vacancy is created within one year of the member's election. Anyone who resigns after one year would be replaced by an executive appointment, which is how Joshua M. Kaufman and James P. O'Donnell became school board members.

Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, a Republican, and Delegates Bates, Miller and Steven J. DeBoy Sr., a Democrat, voted against the bill. Bates said the two board vacancies filled by appointees represent "such an unusual circumstance" that she didn't think it required a legislative remedy. Schrader agreed that the situation is unique, adding that the new arrangement might be confusing.

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