Ballot Homework: 15 County Charter Changes You Will Help Decide
Some of these items resolve long-standing disputes on the County Council, while others fix newer problems.
When Anne Arundel County voters arrive at the polls, they'll not only be voting on the DREAM Act and same-sex marriage, but also deciding the fate of 15 Anne Arundel County charter amendments—ranging from how convicted county councilmen should be treated to enacting an August recess for the Council.
In an attempt to make these 15 items more digestible once you arrive at the polls, I will disassemble the legalese into a more understandable language, and explain context when necessary. Some of these items resolve long-standing disputes on the County Council, while others fix newer problems.
Question A—Gives county departments more time to file their budgets. It also moves the start of the 60-day window for budget deliberation by the County Council from April 15 to May 1. It does not change the budget deadline. (Resolution 54-12)
Question B—Allows the County Council to remove the county executive from office if the official is convicted of, or pleads no contest to, a felony charge, or a crime of moral turpitude or malfeasance. It requires five of the seven Council members to vote in favor of it. (Resolution 32-12)
Question C—Same as Question B, only for a County Councilmember. (Resolution 33-12)
Question D—Allows State Central Committee to fill a County Council vacancy if the Council cannot decide within 30 days. (Resolution 45-12)
Question E—Creates a separate fund to be used explicitly to accrue employee retiree healthcare benefits. As it stands, these funds are taken from the county's general fund, which waxes and wanes along with other expenditures. (Resolution 34-12)
Question F—Would restrict the power of the county executive's veto rights to comprehensive rezoning items only. As it stands, the executive can remove individual provisions from any Council legislation. (Resolution 47-12)
Question G—Changes the start of a county councilmember's term from the day after a successful election bid to the first Monday in December following an election. (Resolution 48-12)
Question H—Gives County Council members the month of August off from their regular meetings. They would still perform their elected duties, but would not meet to vote on legislation for August. (Resolution 40-12)
Question I—Requires an annual, third-party audit of the county government. This is what has been practiced in recent years, but the current charter only requires an audit every four years. (Resolution 38-12)
Question J—The change would require that any money gained by the county from the sale of bonds would be spent exclusively on capital improvement projects. (Resolution 50-12)
Question K— Expands the number of members on the county's Charter Review Commission from five to seven, giving each councilman one appointment each. (Resolution 35-12)
Question L—Limits the county's Board of Appeals members to serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms. (Resolution 35-12)
Question M—Same as Question L, only for the county's Ethics Commission. (Resolution 49-12)
Question N—Clarifies that if the county executive leaves a bill unsigned, or unvetoed, the bill is automatically approved 10 days after the executive was presented it. (Resolution 39-12)
Question O—Allows the county executive to distribute electronic copies of the budget. The current charter requires paper copies to be sent to all Council members. Welcome to the 21st century. (Resolution 55-12)
I hope that helps clarify some of the legal language used in the ballot questions. If you're interested in more explanation, some Council members have explained where they stand on each of the questions.