Baltimore County Ballot to Include Campaign Public Financing Option

Baltimore County voters will get to choose more than their next representatives in 2020, they will also decide whether to give local candidates access to public funds. By a 5-2 vote, the Baltimore County Council yesterday approved a proposal from County Executive Johnny Olszewski to put a Charter Amendment on the 2020 ballot to establish a public financing program for the offices of County Council and County Executive.

Similar to systems adopted by Montgomery County, Howard County, and Prince George’s County, the public financing Charter Amendment aims to reduce the role of large private contributions and encourage individual small donor donations. The program, if approved by voters, would be voluntary, with candidates having the ability to opt-in beginning in 2026.

According to The Baltimore Sun:

None of the details of the campaign financing program have been worked out, so it’s unclear how much a candidate who opts in could receive. Usually, such programs provide matching public funds for candidates who pledge to limit how much they spend and how much they receive from individual donors.

Administration officials have estimated the program would cost Baltimore County about $4.3 million per election cycle.

Office of Ethics and Accountability

The Council also approved Olszewski’s proposal to establish The Office of Ethics and Accountability to provide increased accountability and oversight of county government by working to identify any fraud, abuse or illegal acts. The independent office would have autonomy from the county executive and county council, with an executive director appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the council by a vote of a majority plus one.

Lobbying Reform

The Council unanimously approved Olszewski’s plan to strengthen the County’s lobbying statutes, including:

  • Broadening the definition of lobbying to include both monetary and legislative lobbying.
  • Requiring lobbying registrations to be posted online for public review.
  • Introducing a “cooling-off period,” barring former County Administrative Officers or County Department Heads from lobbying Baltimore County for a period of one year following the employee’s termination.
  • Empowering the County Administrative Officer to expand staff required to receive County ethics training.
  • Requiring public officials required to receive ethics training to also file financial disclosure statements.

Read the full article for more information.