Although Frederick County officials were successful in getting local lawmakers to take up their priorities during the 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly, they were significantly less successful in getting them passed in Annapolis.
The eight-member county legislative delegation agreed to present all 12 bills requested by the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, but only two of them passed by the time the legislature adjourned Monday night, Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said Tuesday.
Young, who is considering a run for governor, said he wasn’t surprised at the outcome of the session. He said the legislative package reflected the county’s needs, but not the reality of what the Democrat-controlled General Assembly would approve.
“Obviously, the problem isn’t with the local delegation, it’s with the state legislature,” Young said.
The county’s meager successes include a bill that will increase the number of permits issued by the county for charitable organizations to hold raffles for fundraising.
The other measure will allow law-enforcement agencies to operate all-terrain vehicles on roads after Young said the county agreed to some alterations such as adding sirens and lights.
Both bills will go into effect Oct. 1 if they are signed by the governor.
Some of the county’s other bills had statewide implications that made them difficult to pass, said Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, the chairman of the county’s delegation in the House of Delegates.
Other bills requested by the commissioners would have modified state ethics laws to limit their impact on former county employees and exempted Frederick County from the state’s stormwater management fees.
Although it wasn’t the version requested by the county, the legislature did pass a bill outlawing the use, possession or distribution of synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice,” “K-2” and other names.
Several municipalities in Frederick County have already banned the substances, but officials, worried that it would spread to the unincorporated areas of the county, asked legislators to introduce a countywide ban.
Although the local bill that would have been emergency legislation and taken effect as soon as it was signed by the governor failed, a statewide measure unanimously passed both the House and Senate and will go to effect Oct. 1.
Despite the struggles of the county’s legislation, several county lawmakers achieved some success with their own bills, however.
Del. Kelly Schulz (R-Dist. 4A) of New Market got a bill passed that will prevent people who kill members of their own family from benefitting from their crimes.
The bill was inspired by the murder of Ann Sue Metz, a Frederick woman whose husband was convicted in her death, then took advantage of his power of attorney to use their house and assets to help pay for his defense.
Del. Michael Hough (R-Dist. 3B) of Brunswick also got a bill passed making it a crime to prevent or interfere with a teacher, social worker or anyone else required to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect from doing so.
Hough said the bill — which was inspired partly by the sexual abuse controversy at Penn State University — will be the first time there will be a penalty in Maryland for preventing such crimes from being reported, Hough said.
Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Dist. 4A) of Middletown was able to get a version of her bill increasing penalties for committing voter fraud amended into Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) package of voting bills.
Del. Donald Elliott (R-Dist. 4B) of New Windsor said that although a bill he sponsored to commission a study by the Maryland Department of the Environment to look for unequal distribution of money from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund failed to pass, the chairwoman of the House committee considering the bill told him she would draft a letter to the MDE asking to have the study done.
Members of Frederick’s delegation said the session was difficult for Republicans because Gov. Martin O’Malley and his allies in the legislature pushed through a series of measures long favored by Democrats.
Hough called it “the most left-wing session in the history of Maryland.”
He cited the passage of a 20-cent increase in the gas tax, a gun-control bill that bans assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and requires fingerprinting for handgun purchases, as well as funding to build a wind farm near Ocean City as examples.
O’Malley’s administration took control of the session and got just about everything it wanted, Hough said.
“They’re kind of a machine down there,” he said. “Once the machine gets rolling, it’s pretty hard to stop it.”
Sen. Ron Young (D-Dist. 3) of Frederick said the session was difficult.
Young said he knows the gas tax is unpopular, but Frederick County was able to get some money to help fund the construction of an interchange at Monocacy Boulevard and U.S. 15 as part of the deal.
He said that while the gun bill wasn’t popular with many Frederick voters, he supports the measure.
“We took no one’s guns, and I don’t think we abridged the Second Amendment [of the Constitution],” Young said.
Blaine Young, who is Ron Young’s son, said he expected the session to be a busy one, because legislators will likely seek a quiet session next year heading into the 2014 elections in November.
He said that while he doesn’t agree with many of O’Malley’s initiatives, he believes the governor is trying to do what he thinks is right.
“I do respect the fact that he understands politics and knows how to get things done,” he said.
Staff Writer Holly Nunn contributed to this story.