Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ballot Questions

So one of the most difficult things to figure out here in Maryland when voting is what each of the ballot questions is actually about. Here is info listed in the Washington Post Voters Guide:

Howard County Ballot Questions

Question A: County Auditor

To amend the Howard County Charter by amending Section 212 "County Auditor" to extend the deadline for submission of the annual financial audit to November 30.

Question B: Budgetary and Fiscal Procedures

To amend the Howard County Charter by amending Section 614 "Enterprise Accounting" to delete an obsolete reference to enterprise accounting principles, amending Section 616 "Borrowing limitations" by expressing a limitation on the aggregate amount of outstanding indebtedness as a percent of the full cash value of the assessable base in accordance with State law; amending Section 617 "Form and terms of bonds" by repealing a requirement of biennial principal payments on bonds, eliminating obsolete requirements of the form of bonds, and eliminating an obsolete reference to the Metropolitan District Commission.

Question C: Arbitration; Award Binding on Executive

To add Section 217 to the Howard County Charter to authorize the adoption of legislation providing for a system of arbitration to resolve negotiation disputes between unions, who are the exclusive representative of police and firefighters, and the County Executive on all matters concerning wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment which are subject to collective bargaining negotiation in accordance with the Howard County Code; providing that any law so enacted shall prohibit strikes or work stoppages by police officers and firefighters; providing that any award made pursuant to arbitration legislation adopted by the Council shall be binding on the County Executive, provided that any award is final no later than three weeks prior to submission of the current expense budget; and to amend Section 603(a)(4) of the Charter to require the County Executive to include any arbitrator's award made pursuant to Section 217 in the proposed expense budget to be submitted to the County Council.

Maryland Ballot Questions

Question One: Disposition of Park Lands

Shall Article XII-Public Works be amended?

This constitutional amendment says the Board of Public Works may not approve the sale, transfer, exchange, grant or other permanent disposition of any state-owned outdoor recreation, open space, conservation, preservation, forest, or park land without the express approval of the General Assembly or of a committee that the General Assembly designates by statute, resolution or rule.

Question Two: Circuit Court in Banc Decisions

Shall Article IV-Judiciary Department be amended?

This constitutional amendment establishes the right of a party who did not request in banc review by the circuit court to appeal an adverse decision by the in banc court to the State's intermediate appellate court, the Court of Special Appeals. The amendment provides that a party in a circuit court trial conducted by less than three circuit court judges is eligible for in banc review. The amendment establishes that three judges of a circuit court constitute a circuit court in banc. The amendment repeals the authority of the circuit courts to regulate the rules governing in banc circuit court appeals, and establishes that the Maryland Rules are to provide the procedure for such appeals. The amendment also eliminates obsolete language pertaining to writs of error from this provision of the Constitution.

Question Three: Civil Jury Trials

Shall the Declaration of Rights, Article 5, be amended?

This constitutional amendment authorizes the enactment of legislation that limits the right to trial by jury in civil proceedings to those proceedings in which the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.

Question Four: Election Law Revisions

Shall Election Law 2-102, 2-103, 2-202, 2-202.1, 2-206, 2-301, 2-303, 3-501, 10-302, be amended?

Special Note: Provisions of this legislation would have amended prior legislation providing an early voting option to voters in primary and general elections. The early voting provisions of this legislation have been declared unconstitutional by court action; the remaining provisions of House Bill 1368 that are subject to this referendum are summarized below.

Requires power and duties assigned to the State Board of Elections to be exercised in accordance with an affirmative vote by a supermajority of the members of the State Board; requires local boards of elections to establish new precincts to serve certain higher educational institutions; requires local boards to adopt regulations concerning voter registration and to allow public notice and comment concerning proposed changes in precinct boundaries; requires local boards of elections to make public reports concerning deletion of individuals from the voter registry and concerning the number of voter registration applications received; authorizes the State Elections administrator to take specified actions to ensure compliance with State elections laws by local election boards and personnel, requires that certain provisions of this legislation apply only to certain jurisdictions and will remain effective until June 30, 2008; requires all polling places to be equipped with computers containing a record of all registered voters in the county.

I am still trying to dig into what these ballot questions will actually do. I will post again once I know more, but in the meantime I thought I would throw them up here for you guys to share what you know about them.


Blogger Ken said...

The League of Women Voters of Maryland and of Howard County explain these statewide and ballot questions as well as anyone and they do so in a non-partisan manner. See
You would vote FOR or AGAINST on the statewide questions and YES or NO on the local ones.
However, there are partisan aspects to statewide question 1. It followed from the disclosure of the administration's plan to sell some state park land to an influential insider. Those plans were abandoned, but this is an attempt to avoid a recurrence by some future administration by requiring legislative assent to any such sales. I'd expect it to win big.
Question 2 would probably only be understood by lawyers if it were not explained by such a group as the League. I'm voting FOR it.
Question 3 is a matter of how easy you think it should be to get a jury trial and whether it's presently so easy that it clogs the process. I'm abstaining on this one.
Question 4 is so complex that the League's explanation comes in very handy. Originally, it was mainly about implementation of last year's early voting law and efforts by opponents of early voting to prevent it from going into effect. But all of that has been rendered moot by the decision of the Court of Appeals of Maryland that the early voting law was invalid because it could only be done by constitional amendment. So you have to look at the rest of House Bill 1368 of 2006 and decide whether it's better to have that or not. A major element would require bipartisan agreement for action by the state Board of Elections. This protects whichever political party loses the governor's race and thus becomes a minority on that board. While this has potential for hamstringing the board, much of the rest of HB1368 looks good to me. At this point, I'm inclined to vote FOR question 4.
There seems to be nothing controversial at all about the first two local questions and I'll vote YES on both. Both would amend the county charter in desirable ways to bring it in tune with what's happening and delete outdated or obsolete language. Because I've long been pushing (both as a member of the last Charter Review Commission and before) for deletion of the language with regard to the defunct Metropolitan Commission, I'm expecially pleased with question 2. I only regret that they did not also include deletion of a section of the charter on Transitional Provisions that have already been implemented and is therefore totally irrelevant. That is a task that remains undone.
Question 3 does involve some controversy. Should the terms and conditions of public employees be set by the public through their elected public officials as now or by some independent arbitrator (as the supporters of this ballot question would like to do)? I'm voting NO on this one.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Thanks Ken!

I am voting against #3 because I think people should be able to have a jury trial.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... is recommending against 4 because it provides too much power to state elections administrator Linda Lamone, who has by all assessments ignored pleas from the electorate for verifiable voting.

12:13 PM  
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