MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp offered amendments to legislation (HB 277) dealing with municipal enforcement of county code violations during the hearing before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 9, 2016.
As introduced, HB 277 allows a municipal enforcement officer, subject to authorization from the legislative body of the municipality, to serve a citation for a violation of any county law, penalty, ordinance, or resolution for which a civil fine or penalty may be imposed on behalf of the county in which the municipality is located. The officer may issue a citation for a potential violation within the municipality or up to one-half mile outside the municipal limits. The officer must then provide a copy of the citation to the governing body of the county and it is at the county’s discretion whether to prosecute such a citation. Delegate Jimmy Tarlau introduced the bill and supported the MACo amendments.
Knapp stated that while the bill intended to give counties and municipalities assistance in addressing code enforcement problems, it needed refinements to address both local autonomy issues and citizen expectations. Accordingly, Knapp proposed several amendments to the bill in MACo’s testimony:
The bill ostensibly seeks to allow municipalities to provide code enforcement assistance to their counties and MACo supports the basic concept. However, such agreements should be cooperative and the bill as currently drafted only requires municipal authorization. MACo’s amendment would require a county and municipality to jointly agree before a municipal officer begins issuing code violations.
Additionally, the bill grants broad authority to issue a citation based on any violation for which a civil fine or penalty may be imposed. MACo’s amendment requires the county and municipality to specify which county violations a municipal officer may serve. The amendments also require the agreement to specify the geographic area where an officer may serve a citation for a county violation and requires that the officer is properly trained in the appropriate county enforcement practices. This provides specificity and certainty for both the involved local governments and the affected citizens.
The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA) testified in opposition to the bill.
For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.