LWVMD Position: Local Government

LOCAL GOVERNMENTAction to support county home rule, with preference for charter. (1967, 1983, 1985)
Support for
  1. County home rule, with preference for charter. (1967, reaffirmed 1983, 1985)
Background: The relationship of the state to various local units of government was thoroughly examined by the League in the early 1960’s. Counties had originally been recognized as units created by the state solely for administrative purposes. Not until 1915 were Maryland counties given the constitutional right to adopt home rule with limited powers. Incorporated municipalities, on the other hand, had been considered to be voluntary units set up to serve the special interests of their citizens and to have inherent rights.
 
During the 1967 study of the Constitution, League members discussed: which units or unit of government (state, county, regional, municipal) should be strengthened by broad grants of power; which should be diminished; what powers should each unit have and how these should be set forth in the Constitution. Consensus emerged for executive or “residual,” (or more properly, “shared”) powers for county governments; county control over municipalities with protection of their integrity; mandatory home rule (modified in 1983 – see below); the passage of only “general legislation” in the General Assembly; regulation procedures for boundary changes; and regional approaches to overlapping problems.
 
The proposed Constitution of 1969, which was defeated, would have granted these broad powers to the counties, reserving only the judicial and taxing powers to the state. All counties would have been required to exercise home rule power and write a charter by 1970. It would have relieved the state legislature of its responsibility for numerous pieces of local legislation applying to only one county. The municipalities would have lost none of their existing powers but would have drawn their powers from the strengthened counties in the future.
 
Delegates at the 1983 LWVMD Convention felt that home rule should be determined locally and not be imposed by the state and therefore voted to change our position to endorse charter home rule without the use of “mandatory”. At the 1985 Convention the issue was again debated and the delegates voted to amend the position to its present form.
 
A majority of Maryland counties now have adopted charter home rule or code home rule. Others have a Commissioner form of government.
 
Action:
  • Supported a 1986 Constitutional Amendment to allow election of County Councils and Commissions by district, at-large, or by a combination of these methods (Amendment passed)