County Executive Pleased With Results Of 2017 General Assembly

But she’s disappointed the ethics bill didn’t make it.


Frederick, Md (KM). The 2017 Maryland General Assembly was a good one for Frederick County, according to County Executive Jan Gardner. “We obtained needed funding for school construction. We saw an increase in Highway User Revenue. We saw the first-time increase in para-transit funding in over a decade. And we avoided any major shifts in state responsibilities to the county budget,” she said.


Gardner spoke Thursday during her public information briefing.


She said the county was able to secure more than $242-million from the state for local public schools. “That’s very important as we continue to try to improve the salaries of our teachers and other school employees, and meet our growing enrollment,” says Gardner.


Frederick County also received some capital funding for school construction and renovation. “We so far have secured $14.7-million in state funding for six capital projects in the county, including paying off Frederick High School, and funding for the new Sugarloaf Elementary and Butterfly Ridge, as well as a number of systemic projects at a variety of schools,” says Gardner.


She says the county also received a slight increase in Highway User Revenue, which comes from the gas tax and is portioned out to counties and municipalities to pay for road repair and maintenance. Since 2008. the state has withheld these funds from local governments because it needed the balance its budget during the recession, when revenues dropped considerably.¬† But since the downturn ended, the state has not restored those funds to counties and states. “So this year, the state budget did include an additional $1.3-million for Frederick County in Highway User Revenue,” she said. “Part of that is in capital grants. And part of that is in general fund type revenues. This is an increase over prior years. So we’re making a little bit of progress.”


Gardner says this will continue to be a major issues for the cities and towns for the foreseeable future.


Frederick County also saw an increase in para-transit funding from the state. Para-transit services are provided¬† persons with disabilities and senior so they can get to their doctor’s appointments. Gardner says the state’s share of the funding hasn’t increased in more than s decade, but this year, the General Assembly considered a bill to give local governments,a rebate on the fuel tax. “This bill did pass and it will provide a small increase in funding for this critically needed service. We expected to get an increase of about $12,000. It’s not a lot of money, but $12,000 does buy a fair number of trips to help our senior citizens get to their medical appointments.”


But Gardner says she was disappointed that her ethics bill didn’t pass the General Assembly. The measure would have required Planning Commission members running for elected office not to take campaign contributions from people who have zoning applications before the Commission. County Council members are subject to this requirement. “This bill, in my mind, was an easy bill to pass. However, it did not pass this year in the Legislature through a very disappointing experience. Our Frederick County Delegation members decided at the last minute to advance a bill introduced by Senator {Michael}¬† Hough,” she said.


That legislation would have required non-elected members of boards and commissions to step down if they open a campaign account, and that all campaign donations of $500 or more be reported to the Ethics Commission as soon as possible. “This bill had no local public hearing process, and had no enforcement provisions, making it a rather ineffective bill,” says Gardner. “And ultimately the State’s Attorney General issued an opinion that questioned the constitutionality of the bill,:” said Gardner. “That bill was not really an ethics bill. It was really an election bill, a campaign finance bill.”


“But the bill was essentially a poison pill, and it effectively killed advancing stronger ethics laws for Frederick County,” said County Executive Gardner.


She said meet with the Ethics Task Force to determine what to bring forward in the future.

By Kevin McManus