Delegate. Karen Lewis Young Elected Delegation chair, Senator Michael Hough vice chair.
Frederick, Md (KM) Frederick County’s Delegation in the General Assembly on Saturday held its annual hearing on the County Legislative Package.
But before they heard details on the bills and listened to public comment, lawmakers elected Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D) to chair the group. She said she appreciated the support from her fellow lawmakers. “Realistically, we agree on much more than we disagree on. Particularly in turbulent times, we must all remember that our first obligation and order of business is to serve our constituents,” she said.
Legislators also elected State Senator Michael Hough (R) as vice chair. “We have a system that we’ve work through which I think is good. People want both parties to work together. We’re an even split delegation. We’ve been rotating the chairmanship between parties every year, ” he said.
The Frederick County Legislative Package has two bills an four position statements from the County Executive, and one bill and three position statements from the County Council.
County Executive Jan Gardner discussed her bill which she says would promote transparency in the home buying process. The legislation, if passed, would prohibit builders and developers who construct new homes in the county from passing on infrastructure costs to home buyers, including roads, water and sewer in the form of a lien. . “This comes from a citizen who was upset to find out at the closing table. that they were going to have a lien between them and the developer—not between them and the county, but between them and the person they were buying it from.– to pay their water and sewer connection fee for their home over 20 years,” says Gardner.
Attorney Robert Engler, representing the Maryland Building Industry Association, said he had some concerns about this legislation. He said a lot of this information on liens to pay off water and sewer connection fees is already made known to the purchaser of a home. “This bill has been described as a bill as to provide transparency. But the transparency as far we know already exists,” he said.
County Executive Gardner says she will meet with the Association this week to discuss the legislation.
A position statement which was discussed had to do with the advertisements placed in newspapers announcing public hearings on a county of municipalities property tax rate. Councilman Jerry Donald said the ads claim that any increase from the constant yield tax rate is an increase in the property tax, even though the rate is not expected to change. “The law is very technical, even down the font you have to use, where you have to publish it,” he said. “It seems to me outdated, and it just confusing to people. Yes, we should get rid of the notice that it’s a tax increase. Because it’s not.”
Senator Hough disagreed. “We all pay more money in taxes when the constant yield is not adopted. I think it’s a transparency thing that people would be notified,” he said.
If the county adopted the constant yield, it would take in the same amount of revenue it received in the previous year.
Another position statement had to do with the siting of large solar arrays. It calls on legislators to grant local governments the authority to decide where to place solar arrays. A finding by the Court of Appeals determined that the Maryland Public Service Commission can preempt local zoning on the locations of solar arrays.
Council President MC Keegan-Ayer told legislators she has spoken with the local Farm Bureau whose members are concerned that many of these projects are located on prime agricultural land. “And that you keep local zoning in place and allow that authority so that we make sure that these projects are being placed on land that is appropriate, but also is not going to impact our farmers’ ability to produce their farm products,” she said.
On another topic, County Executive Gardner said a lot of counties could lose education funding due to declining enrollments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. “School enrollments across the state are declining because parents are not signing up their kids for school, or making a temporary home school decision, or a temporary private school decision. This will affect maintenance of effort and the state funding for that, as well as for local funding,” said Gardner.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, the Legislative Delegation heard from Jessica Douglas, the Legislative Lead for the local chapter of Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense in America. “In Maryland, every gun sale requires a background check except for long guns purchased through an unlicensed dealer,” she said. “This dangerous loophole allows a person who would otherwise be denied purchase of a gun in the state of Maryland to avoid a background check. This is especially dangerous in Frederick County because there are more guns offered for sale on line that do not require a background check in Frederick County than in any other county in the state.”
Douglas said a bill passed in the last General Assembly Session would close this loophole, but the Governor vetoed it. She called on all legislator to override the veto.
The 2021 Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to gavel into session on Wednesday, January 13th.
By Kevin McManus