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.