As the Frederick County Board of Commissioners continues to prepare a wish list of bills it will ask the state legislative delegation to support, several items such as hot-button positions on carrying guns and tracking illegal immigration in schools are likely to fall on deaf ears in Annapolis.
The legislative package contains 16 proposed bills to be sent to the county’s delegation to the General Assembly for consideration by the full legislature.
It also includes 16 position statements — nonbinding statements of principle that assert the board’s opinion on various topics.
The position statements cover a broad spectrum of issues, from opposition to an increase in the gasoline tax, to advocating a ban on a controversial abortion procedure and opposing state septic regulations the commissioners believe would impose significant costs on local governments.
The commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed package Tuesday night. Three residents spoke out of the 10 people who attended the meeting.
The commissioners are scheduled to review comments from the public hearing at their Oct. 25 meeting with a final vote on which items to include scheduled for Nov. 1.
The commissioners will hold a meeting with the eight-member state delegation on Dec. 7 about the package, followed by a public hearing by the delegation the next day.
One of the position statements supports the change of Maryland to being a “shall issue” state for carrying concealed weapons. Maryland is currently a “may issue” state, meaning the secretary of the Maryland State Police must determine whether an applicant has a substantial reason to carry a handgun.
Frederick resident Jeannette Bartelt spoke against including the statement in the package at Tuesday’s hearing.
“Guns are for one thing and one thing only, and that is to hurt or kill someone,” she said.
She also spoke against including a statement in support of a state ban on partial birth abortions, saying it’s wrong to take that choice away from women.
Three of the position statements involve issues surrounding immigration.
One supports giving Frederick County Public Schools the authority to count and report the number of undocumented students in the school system.
Bills were introduced in the state Senate and House of Delegates during the last session to have the schools count how many students they had whose legal residence couldn’t be reasonably documented. But both bills failed to emerge from the committees considering them, according to information contained in the legislative package proposal.
Previous commissioners have also asked the county school system to count the number of undocumented students, but encountered resistance from the Frederick County Board of Education.
If the county could tell legislators on a national level what effect illegal immigration is having on the local level, maybe they would work harder to find a solution, Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said.
Meanwhile, they should either reimburse local jurisdictions for the cost, or find a workable solution on the federal level, he said.
School board President Angie Fish said the board has looked into getting the numbers in the past and been told they can’t legally do it.
Fish said she hasn’t heard from any member of the school board who wants to bring the issue up again.
Commissioner David Gray (R) said he opposes including the school immigration position statement in the package.
“It’s just rhetoric, in my opinion,” he said.
Gray said that while there’s nothing wrong in theory with counting the students, he thinks it would be needlessly intimidating for the students and help feed an image held by some that Frederick County is unwelcoming to minorities.
The proposed package also includes a position statement calling for improved cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement in enforcing federal immigration laws in Maryland.
A third position statement calls for a national convention to address citizenship and immigration issues.
Young said he doesn’t think any taxpayer-funded services should go to illegal immigrants, and that immigrants living off government programs will return to their home countries on their own if services are no longer provided for them.
Gray said he’s hopeful that after November’s election, Congress will begin to work toward a feasible immigration policy.
He said he planned to suggest that the commissioners should push Maryland’s U.S. Senators and members of Congress who represent the county to come up with an effective immigration law.
He said continued inaction by the federal government gets people frustrated and encourages local governments to try and solve the problem themselves.
“You don’t serve anyone by lack of action,” Gray said.
Ultimately, position statements are just a way for the commissioners to say what their opinions are, and for advocates of particular issues to feel they’ve accomplished something, according to Rick Weldon, Brunswick city administrator and a former county commissioner who also spent six years in the House of Delegates, including three years as the chairman of the county delegation.
Senators and delegates from Baltimore city or other parts of the state don’t really care what the Frederick County commissioners think, he said.
“Nothing happens with those things in Annapolis,” Weldon said.
Charles Jenkins, who also served Frederick County as both a commissioner and a delegate, agreed.
The impact of such statements is virtually zero, and the delegation won’t give them much attention, he said.
The statements are often used by commissioners to get people on the record about an issue, and they tend to come up more during election cycles than in other years, he said.
“Oftentimes, they were for theatrics on the part of commissioners,” Jenkins said.