The Frederick County Council voted to move a question to the presidential ballot in November asking voters to change one aspect of the county charter at its meeting Tuesday, which lowers county government's overall debt limits and borrowing capacity.
Council members discussed more than half a dozen charter ballot proposals for more than an hour Tuesday. Votes on multiple proposals were delayed until next week.
Councilman Steve McKay (R) led discussion of two of the proposed questions which would create limited special elections for vacancies for the County Council and County Executive. Those were delayed until next week.
McKay said, among several other reasons, that improving not only the appointment process but returning the decision of those vacancies to county voters through special elections was important.
But Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said she was concerned about some of the language McKay was using, and that it might be tricky for county residents to understand at the voting booth.
Still, some, including Council Vice President Michael Blue (R), supported McKay's intent.
"Anytime we can take this back to a democratic process and let the voters weigh in [is good]," Blue said.
Council members approved in a 7-0 vote lowering the county government's borrowing capacity and debt limit from five to three percent of real property value and 15 to nine percent of personal property value. Members said they supported that change because it represented fiscally sound government.
Councilman Phil Dacey (R) also tried to introduce a charter amendment that would allow council members to move money around in the county executive's proposed budget.
Dacey said that issue wouldn't "be put to bed" until county voters decide, and that it was the "biggest" charter ballot issue before the voters.
"Regardless of what you think .. I do think this issue is going to keep coming back until voters have the say to vote on this," Dacey said.
But some, like Keegan-Ayer and Councilman Jerry Donald (D), said changing that part of the budget process would likely require more council staff and would require more council members' time during the annual budget cycle.
"If this passes, it will fundamentally change this job for at least six weeks a year … this is a very big change," Donald said.
A final decision on Dacey's decision was delayed until next week.
Other changes the council discussed included lowering the number of council members needed to conduct subpoenas for investigations from six to five members. That one was not a pressing need for council members, most of whom noted it would be rare for the council to use that power in any situation.
County Attorney Bryon Black and Election Director Stuart Harvey will finalize the language for charter ballot questions for November's ballot. Keegan-Ayer said Tuesday that anymore than three or four questions would give Harvey "heartburn," as many voters would not be able to focus on any additional ballot questions on a lengthy ballot—known as "voter fatigue."