St. Mary’s Commissioners received a recommendation this week to overhaul the foundation of county government; a complex change that all citizens could vote on.
Three opinions issued by the Task Force are reprinted below.
The purpose of this report is to make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for St. Mary’s County, Maryland (BOCC) on whether the form of government of St. Mary’s County should be changed from commissioner form to one of the other forms of government available to Maryland counties. Our report contrasts the differences between commissioner and charter and code home rule forms of government; identifies the general powers and authority of each form; and identifies the process for changing the form.
Twelve of the fifteen members of the Task Force voted to recommend the BOCC move away from the commissioner form of government to one of the two forms of home rule. Of those twelve members, nine voted to recommend a change to the charter form of government. Three voted for code home rule. Of the fifteen-member Task Force, only three members voted for no change.
This report is organized in two main parts. The first section contains the report of the Task Force majority recommending charter and a summary of the rationale for the recommendation. The second section consists of two minority reports: one in favor of a change to code home rule and the other in favor of no change. In addition, it contains several appendices of, among other things, information regarding the various forms of government, powers and duties, procedures for adopting home rule, and the financial impact of the various forms of government.
The Forms of Government Task Force (the “Task Force”) respectfully recommends the St. Mary’s County Commissioners (BOCC) take the necessary steps to move away from the current commissioner system (“Commissioner”) and adopt one of the two forms of home rule government for St. Mary’s County – charter or code home rule. For the purpose of our Task Force recommendation, “home rule” includes either: the charter form of government (“Charter”) as defined in the Maryland Annotated Code Article 25A or the code home rule form of government (“Code Home Rule”) as defined in the Maryland Annotated Code Article 25B.
Charter government is formed when there is approval of a countywide referendum of a written charter document. The charter sets forth the powers and authority the citizens permit the government to have. A charter-writing committee appointed by the BOCC formulates this charter.
Once approved, county government would be organized under a county council that has only the power granted to it by the charter. In addition, to the county council, there would be one of two forms of administrative arm to the charter.
County voters would decide whether to separately elect a county executive who could function as a policy maker and administrator of the daily operations of government. Or, Charter would permit the county council to appoint a county manger to operate the day-to-day functions of government. Charter provides greater checks and balances, separation of powers, and community limitation on governmental power.
In contrast, Code Home Rule would retain the county commissioner functions and form – it would put little operational change in place. Code Home Rule, however, permits the county commissioners to pass local law on local matters without the need to go to the Maryland General Assembly. The chan