When Frederick County voters fill out their ballots for the presidential election, they’ll find six questions, proposing either changes to state law or amendments to the county charter.
Here is a breakdown of each of those questions. Early voting begins Oct. 26, and Election Day is Nov. 3.
Question 1: Changing the budget process
Currently, the governor proposes the operating budget, and the state Legislature can cut from that proposed budget but not move money around. This change would allow the Legislature to move money around in the governor’s proposed budget, or add funding to certain items, as long as the overall budget doesn’t increase.
The governor, under this proposal, would retain a line item veto, but the Legislature can override any veto with a three-fifths majority in the House of Delegates and Senate.
Supporters of this constitutional amendment believe it provides a greater balance of power in the state’s annual budget process. Opponents believe it would increase unnecessary lobbying in Annapolis and perhaps lead to a constitutional law change where delegates and senators could add to the budget without having to cut elsewhere.
Question 2: Legalizing sports gambling
The second ballot question asks Marylanders whether they want to approve a referendum expanding commercial gaming statewide to include sports gambling.
More than a dozen states have legalized the industry, according to LegalSportsReport, a website that tracks the issue nationwide. That includes neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. Virginia legalized it this year, and it just started on online sites and booking platforms, according to local media reports.
Supporters of this change believe it is an easy way to raise money for the state, especially for public education. Opponents say it would further commercialize American sports and that illegal sports gambling would still exist.
Local Charter Amendment A: Council non-interference
Currently, the county charter requires the county executive to provide information requested by the County Council for bill drafting, overall policy exploration and other research.
This amendment would require the executive to do that when any single council member requests information.
Those in favor of this amendment believe it is a valuable check and balance of the county’s legislative branch on the executive branch. Those who oppose it say it could create a mountain of work for the county executive and his or her staff as they work through numerous requests.
Local Charter Amendment B: Borrowing Limitations
Currently, the charter allows debt limits of the following for county government: 5 percent of assessable real property and 12 percent of assessable personal property.
County Finance Director Lori Depies asked county legal and elections officials to draft a ballot question to reduce those to 3 percent of assessable real property and 9 percent of assessable personal property.
Those in favor, including Depies, said the change would hopefully prevent future county officials from overborrowing and putting the county in poor financial situations. Those who oppose the amendment believe the county’s current debt limits are adequate and don’t want to further limit borrowing capacity.
Local Charter Amendment C: Council Member Special Elections
Currently, if there is a sudden vacancy on the County Council, the charter states that fellow council members shall appoint someone within 45 days. That occurs after the party central committee of the vacating council member submits three names. The committee has 30 days to submit the list.
This amendment, proposed by Councilman Steve McKay, would create a special election process if that occurs in the first year of a member’s term. An appointment process would still occur, but a special election would then be held to fill the vacancy.
During the appointment process, all candidates would also undergo a public interview process.
McKay and supporters of the amendment say this returns the decision back to county voters, but those against it note it would lead to a lack of continuity in government, if enough vacancies occur in a four-year term.
Local Charter Amendment D: County Executive Special Elections
This question is similar to Question C. Currently, if a county executive vacancy occurs, the charter states the council must follow a similar process to that of a vacating council member.
If this question is approved, a special election would be held for the county executive if the vacancy occurs in the first year of a term. And, like in the council vacancy process, interviews for appointment for a temporary replacement would be public.
Those who support this amendment state, similar to Amendment C, that it would return the decision to county voters. Those who oppose it again point to the lack of continuity argument, especially considering the executive monitors the day-to-day operations of the county.