County Executive Jan Gardner (D) announced on Thursday that she’d reached a compromise on ethics reform legislation for the upcoming General Assembly session.

The new bill reflects a compromise between Gardner and State Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4), whose dueling reform bills last session both failed to pass.

“I’m pleased to share some good news: that Senator Hough and I have successfully merged our two proposals and our two bills and will be advancing one bill this year to the state legislature,” Gardner said during her weekly press briefing at Winchester Hall on Thursday.

Currently, county ethics provisions in state law prohibit members of the County Council and the county executive from accepting campaign donations from people who have pending zoning applications. Current law also requires the officials to disclose any ex parte communications about applications while they are pending.

The 2018 proposal will do two main things to decrease the influence of campaign funds in high-stakes land-use cases:

  • Expand the law’s definition of “applicant” to include others who work on applications, including attorneys, architects, engineers and traffic consultants.
  • Require members of four boards — liquor, planning, board of appeals, ethics — to step down within 48 hours of opening a campaign finance account.

In a phone interview Thursday night, Hough said he and Gardner were “at the 2-yard line” on the compromise bill, but it wasn’t time to spike the football in celebration just yet.

He submitted the proposed language to state bill drafters on Thursday to make sure all of the provisions are legal. In particular, he wanted state drafters and legal experts to make certain that members of the liquor board, which is technically a state board, could be included in the bill.

“I think conceptually, we’re in agreement,” Hough said. “We’ve just got to cross our T’s and dot our I’s.”

Hough said he hopes to receive final word from state bill drafters in time to present a proposed draft bill at the delegation’s public hearing in Winchester Hall on Saturday.

Delegation agenda set

Have thoughts on the ethics bill? You can share them at the county delegation’s public hearing.

A final agenda was set this week and includes six main items:

  • A legislative priorities presentation from the Frederick County Liquor Board;
  • a discussion of ethics legislation from Hough;
  • potential requests for state bond funding;
  • discussion of the opioid epidemic;
  • potential legislation from the delegation; and
  • public comment.

The public hearing is expected to run from 2 to 4:30 p.m. in the first-floor hearing room of Winchester Hall. The hearing will be broadcast live on FCG TV, cable channel 19, and webcast at www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/video.

When the meeting begins, county residents will learn who the new chairperson of the county delegation will be for the 2018 General Assembly session.

“I’ll be stepping down,” said current chair Delegate Kathy Afzali (R-District 4). “…And, all bets are off. We’ll see what happens.”

Delegation members will arrive early to Winchester Hall to vote on new leadership positions, said Afzali, who will leave the General Assembly after the upcoming session to run for county executive.

“I’m happily going to help whoever’s the next chair get up to speed,” Afzali said Thursday. “It’s the peaceful transition of power.”

PIA update

During a busy Thanksgiving week, I neglected to include an item last week from Councilman Billy Shreve (R). Shreve issued a press release last Tuesday noting that the county was still behind in filling a Public Information Act request he’d filed in September.

In November, I wrote that discussions among County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and the county’s legal team resulted in a decision to revisit the request Shreve said was not completed.

County spokeswoman Vivian Laxton said on Thursday that an expanded packet of information was delivered to Shreve’s office this Tuesday.

Workshopping
with the Dems

The Frederick County Democratic Central Committee will hold a free workshop this weekend for Democrats interested in running for office.

The workshop will be Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Whitaker Campus Center at Hood College.

The workshop will cover topics including:

  • which offices are up for election in 2018;
  • what is involved in each job;
  • what the qualifications are; and
  • how the committee can help candidates.

For more information or to RSVP, email info@frederickdemocrats.org.

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.

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