County Council Pares Down List Of Bills For 2017 General Assembly

Blight bill support approved; school choice vouchers, right to work turned down.

Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Council members  on Tuesday whittled down their  list of bills they would like to see  passed by the 2017 Maryland General Assembly.

One measure proposed by Councilman Kirby Delauter would make Maryland a right-to-work state, which means that no employer could force their employees to join a labor union. He says it’s a way to attract heavy industry to Frederick County, noting that states in the south have passed right-to-work laws. “A lot of heavy manufacturing, especially in heavy equipment, has moved to the southern states just for this reason,” he says. “The economic benefits they’re receiving off of that are tremendous. I want to get Frederick County in that position so we can bring in heavy manufacturing.” Delauter suggested using the former Eastalco site.

But Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater called this anti-union. “There’s a lot of research that shows that the quality of life, quality of education is much higher in states that are not right-to-work. I’d like keep Maryland in that category and not shove us into a lower quality of life.”

The Council turned down that bill.

The panel also voted against setting up a school choice voucher program. Councilman Tony Chmelik favored allowing parents to use the money spent on their children for education to be used to send their kids to a private school. “Why should they be hindered when yet we do allocate through our taxes thousands of dollars to each child. Why do we  restrict where they have to go to school? Why do they have to go to ‘the public school,'” he said.

“We have a state constitution that mandates that we provide a free public education to every child in this county,” responded Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer. “If you as a parent decide  that you do not want your child to participate in that public education, you have the option or the choice of choosing to send your child someplace else.” She also said private schools can be selective about who they want to attend, whereas public schools must educate every child who comes to their door.

Other bills proposed by Councilman Delauter were also voted down, including the establishment of Education Savings Accounts using public funds toward a child’s education; making Maryland a “shall-carry” state when it comes to concealed weapons; and allowing state-certified vehicle inspection stations to conduct emissions testing instead of the VEIP facilities.

But Delauter’s proposal for a position paper to have state  investigate whether counties can shift state school construction funds between projects.

Another position paper approved by the Council expresses support for a bill prepared by Delegate Carol Krimm to deal with blighted properties. It would penalize lending institutions which fail to register foreclosed properties with the state’s foreclosed property registry. It would also expand local governments’ ability to deal with nuisances on foreclosed properties.

The Council voted down a position statement by Board Member Jerry Donald which would request the Maryland State Board of Education to justify all mandated positions in the local public school system, especially if those individuals are certified teachers who are not teaching in the classroom.

But the Council agreed to support a change in state law that requires vehicle sellers to update a car’s emissions test before sale, and that emissions certificate would remain valid for two years.

The panel also supported the expansion of families’ access to treatment for substance abuse.

County Executive Jan Gardner will hold a town hall meeting on the 2017 Legislative Package on Thursday, Oct. 13th at Winchester Hall.

By Kevin McManus