Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ballot Questions in Montgomery County, MD

This year there are two statewide ballot questions and two county ballot questions. Of these, Ballot Question A is the least clear, so here's some background information.

The following excerpts of the County Charter with editorial remarks are © 2008 American Legal Publishing Corporation:

Sec. 311A. Limitations on Expenditures for Landfills in Residential Zones.

No expenditure of County funds shall be made or authorized for the operation of a landfill system of refuse disposal on land zoned for residential use. (Election of 11-7-78.)

Editor's note—See East v. Gilchrist, 296 Md. 368, A.2d 285 (1983); holding section 311A cannot be given effect under circumstances involving an order of the secretary of health and mental hygiene and requirement of local funding under public general law.

Sec. 311B. Limitations on Expenditures, Contracts, and Permits for Burying or Trenching Sewage Sludge in Residential Zones.

No expenditure of County funds shall be made or authorized for the construction or operation of a system for burying or trenching sewage sludge on land zoned for residential use, nor may the County purchase or contract for the service of burying or trenching sewage sludge on land zoned for residential use. Also, the County may not seek federal or state permits for the burying or trenching of sewage sludge in residential zones. (Election of 11-4-80.)

Sec. 313A. Purchasing, Contracting for Goods, Services with C&P Telephone Company.

The County Government may not purchase and contract for goods and services with the C&P Telephone Company (C&P) unless C&P includes telephone subscribers in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Montgomery Village in the Washington Metropolitan Area Telephone Exchange (MET) at local rates no higher than local rates charged MET subscribers in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Kensington and Rockville telephone exchange areas. (Election of 11-2-82.)

Editor's note—In Rowe, et al. v. The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Maryland, et al., 65 Md. App. 527, 501 A.2d (1985), it was held that Charter section 313A could not be given effect because it conflicted with a state Public Service Commission Order.

The League of Women Voters has a discussion of all four ballot questions, including (in part) the following on Question A:

Present Practice – The County Charter provides a framework for the governance of the county. Three provisions in the County Charter: 311A, 311B, and 313A currently have no legal force and do not affect how county government operates. The Maryland courts blocked implementation of 311A and 313A because each directly conflicted with some aspect of state law. More fundamentally, neither of these provisions are proper “Charter Material” because they do not address a fundamental aspect of the form and basic structure of county government. In addition, they attempt to legislate through a charter amendment, which the Maryland Constitution prohibits. Although the Maryland courts have not blocked the operation of 311B, a consistent line of Court of Appeal opinions makes clear that this provision, like the ones above, is in conflict with the Maryland Constitution’s prohibition on legislating through a charter amendment.


Julie said...

Maybe I didn't put my brain in the right way this morning--isn't this all saying that other laws make these things illegal, anyway, making putting them on a ballot a moot point?

Mike Marsh said...

Two of the three laws in Ballot Question A have been blocked by court order, since they're contradicted by state law, which has precedence. The third likely is, too. This ballot question really just relates to cleaning up the County Charter, since there's no reason to have an illegal law on the books.

I should also mention that Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone is now known as Verizon. I have no idea whether the concern addressed by 313A is still valid, but it may well be. I recall having to dial a '1' to call my insurance agent in Gaithersburg from College Park.