ANNAPOLIS — The Frederick County General Assembly delegation’s ethics reform bill is being reformed.

Both the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and the bill’s drafter, Sen. Michael Hough, have suggested revisions.

On Tuesday, Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, shared a letter from Sandra Benson Brantley, counsel to the General Assembly, which concluded that at least one facet of Hough’s bill — a ban on campaign contributions — is overly broad and could be considered unconstitutional by a court.

But Hough, R-District 4, already had amendments in the works that he thinks will address the concerns. The amendments were being finalized on Tuesday and had not been distributed to Frederick County’s General Assembly members by late evening.

A Senate committee hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday.

Krimm wants the delegation to meet before then to discuss both the letter from the attorney general’s office and Hough’s proposed amendments.

“Members of the delegation may wish to reconsider their vote in light of this letter,” Krimm said Tuesday evening. “It’s not right for a delegation to move a bill that has this many questions from the attorney general.”

She plans to share Brantley’s letter with the committees that will hold hearings on the ethics bill.

Hough’s bill, which was later endorsed by the five Republicans in the county delegation, has three main provisions:

  • Requiring that all non-elected members of decision-making boards and commissions be forced to step down once they open a campaign account, to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Requiring campaign donations of $500 or more to be disclosed to the county’s ethics commission shortly after they are received.
  • Prohibiting contributions from any business entity that has a bid or an application pending before the county government.

Brantley wrote that while the first two provisions are “not clearly unconstitutional,” the contribution ban portion was too broad as originally written.

Hough’s amendments will address that concern by more narrowly tailoring the contribution ban to include only individuals directly involved in county business — rather than extending that provision to broader groups such as attorneys and lobbyists. His amendment pulls language defining the business “agents” that would be subject to the contribution ban from existing law in Prince George’s County.

Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, said Tuesday evening that no delegation meeting had been scheduled yet, but one could be called before the Thursday bill hearing.

“The thing that I’m excited about is that we’re discussing ethics reform and people are fired up and taking it seriously,” Afzali said.

Hough originally introduced the ethics bill after he felt a proposal backed by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) didn’t pursue reforms that were extensive enough.

That bill — which extends campaign donation prohibitions that currently apply to County Council members to members of the Frederick County Planning Commission who are seeking election to public office — was introduced in the General Assembly by the county’s three Democratic members after it was voted down by the delegation.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(11) comments

elymus43

If Annapolis had ethics, then they would not need a ethics bill.....................

yogib

Tougher Ethics?? You got to be be kidding. The Repubs had no interest when the County was running corrupt under their governance. They really want to kill even the thought of ethics and trying to confuse the issue is their methodology.

Laughable when Afzali says "“The thing that I’m excited about is that we’re discussing ethics reform and people are fired up and taking it seriously,”

Where was she when Blaine and his boys were running this County into the ground with their graft?

BstD59

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

BstD59

I can honestly say that I have never agreed with Hough on anything. To me he is a carbon copy of that weasel he replaced [I can't for the life of me remember his name. Probably a good thing anyway as he wasn't worth remembering anyway]. With that said, I can't seem to find a fault with Hough's proposed ethics legislation. I supported the FC ethics reform legislation and Hough's bill just makes it a bit stronger. I see no Constitutional infringement or any other reason why this shouldn't be passed. Politicians are always in a position to be corrupted, temptations are everywhere and this legislation will help to keep everyone running for election on the straight and narrow.

Titanman123

of course the liberal AG office would try to strike down tougher ethics laws! Sad!

Carol Krimm should support tougher ethics laws...unless she has something to hide!

FrederickFan

Clearly you haven't read Hough's "bill." It isn't tougher. In fact, somehow, he overlooked enforcing tougher ethics on himself. I wonder how that happened? Clerical error?

hayduke2

Tin you really ought to read and understand the two bills. Your post is nonsense.

jthompson

To say that the prohibition of an act is unconstitutional necessarily infers that there is a constitutional right to engage in the act. There are simply too many elected officials sitting in federal prisons under Hobbs Act convictions to support the AG's position that those with pending business before a governmental body have a constitutional right to provide political campaign contributions to the elected officials of that governmental body.

public-redux

I wondered about how many such elected officials there might be so googled it. Enough to make your point.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_state_officials_convicted_of_federal_corruption_offenses

jthompson

A few years ago South Carolina had a slew of them who took part in a literal "pay to play" scandal involving casino gambling.

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