Measure on state-owned land wins approval

Ballot questions

Maryland Votes 2006 -- A Special Section

November 08, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved yesterday a constitutional amendment that prohibits the governor from selling parks and other state-owned land without approval from the General Assembly.

The amendment was prompted by the disclosure of an Ehrlich administration plan to sell hundreds of acres of preserved land in St. Mary's County to a politically connected developer. After The Sun wrote about the proposal in 2004, the deal fell apart and legislators passed the new prohibitions by large margins in the House and the Senate.

Such sales have been approved by the three-member state Board of Public Works, on which the governor sits.

Republicans initially scoffed at the proposed constitutional amendment but signed on after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. expressed his support. The legislature must pass amendments, which then appear on the ballot during the next general election.

Conservation groups have applauded the measure as a legislative safeguard designed to ensure the preservation of open land.

Voters also approved three other ballot questions, including Question Four, which was placed on the ballot by petitioners concerned about a voting law passed by the legislature.

The measure requires local election boards to establish precincts on college campuses and to publicize when and how they remove names from voter rolls. The law also requires polling places to have computers containing a record of all registered voters in the locality.

One part of the Assembly's voting law provided more specifics on a proposed early-voting initiative - refining legislation adopted a year earlier. Ehrlich opposed the early-voting legislation, saying it would invite voter fraud and provide a further advantage to Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in the state 2 to 1.

But the state's highest court declared early voting unconstitutional, nullifying that part of the legislation.

The second question on the ballot would establish "the right of a party who did not request an in banc review by the circuit court to appeal an adverse decision by the in banc court to the state's intermediate appellate court, the Court of Special Appeals." Now, the party in the lawsuit who did not request an in banc review does not have the option to appeal.

The third ballot question, a remedy to an earlier amendment passed by voters and later struck down by the Court of Appeals, allows the state to adopt a law limiting civil jury trials to cases "in which the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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