Thursday, October 24, 2019

Howard County Charter Review Commission

Although the Howard County Charter seems like a dry topic, there are a number of important items being considered for possible inclusion on the ballot in 2020, including:

  • Changing the number of Howard County Council Districts (for example, from 5 to 7)
  • Giving the Council the ability to delete, or increase or decrease, line items in the Executive's budget
  • Requiring that the County either limit future proposed projects to the funding projects for future years (such as schools and swimming pools), or at least state what the expected revenue will be in those years

Input can be provided directly to the Charter Review Commission at any time via email:
The meetings are also open to the public and there may be an additional 4th Public Hearing later this year.

Just a sampling of the topics that have been considered this year are listed below:

Every 8 years Howard County establishes a citizen-led commission to recommend changes to the Howard County Charter that establishes the County’s form of government (i.e., its "Constitution").

A series of public hearings are being held this Fall to provide citizens with an opportunity to express their ideas and concerns in person. Some topics that have been proposed for this year's review so far:

1. Should the County Council be granted new authorities to modify the budget received from the Executive, such as increasing, deleting, or decreasing items or moving budget line items between departments?
2. Should the number of Council Districts, and the mode of election (by District or at-large), be changed?
3. Should the County be required to publish future income projections when releasing the multi-year Capital Improvement Plans, or be required to limit proposed future projects to the recommendations of the Spending Affordability Committee?
4. Should the number of days specified by the Charter for required actions (such as transmitting new legislation from the Council to the Executive) be changed from calendar days to working days?
5. Should the Executive be required to submit the draft budget to the Council at an earlier date, to allow more time for the Council to review it and for the public to provide comment?
6. Should Council members be permitted to serve more than three terms, if non-consecutive? Should it be changed to reflect the same limits as the Executive (two consecutive terms)?
7. Should the appointment of Department Heads require confirmation by the Council? If so, which ones?
8. Should the length of citizen appointments to Review Boards and Commissions be reduced from 5 years to 3 years, to encourage more citizens to serve?

The current schedule of hearings in 2019 is:

• June 4, 2019 @ 7 PM, George Howard Building, Ellicott City
• Sept. 19, 2019 @ 7 PM, North Laurel Community Center (NLCC)
• Oct. 24, 2019 @ 7 PM, Gary J. Arthur Community Center, Glenwood, MD

The Commission’s recommendations are due to the Howard County Council on or before May 1, 2020. Past recommendations have resulted in Howard County ballot initiatives during elections that have changed the Charter.

To learn more, see the Charter Review Commission's page on the Howard County Government web site:

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