On Election Day, County-Specific Ballot Questions Abound

ballot box, elections, voteWith Election Day fast approaching, voters on November 3 will be presented with a number of ballot questions concerning county governance and structure. Here, Conduit Street provides an overview of county-specific ballot questions.

UPDATE: For post-Election coverage of county ballot questions, see County Ballot Questions: Here’s What We Know.

Statewide Ballot Questions

Two statewide ballot questions will appear in all 24 Maryland jurisdictions. The first is a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing the General Assembly, in enacting a balanced budget bill for fiscal year 2024 and each fiscal year thereafter, to increase, diminish, or add items, provided that the General Assembly may not exceed the total proposed budget as submitted by the Governor. The second question asks voters if they approve of the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.

County-Specific Ballot Questions

Allegany, CalvertCaroline, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Harford, Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties will not ask voters to consider any county-specific ballot questions.

Anne Arundel County will have seven ballot questions, including whether to amend the County Charter to:

  1. Allow the County Auditor to 1) have access to all records and files pertaining to County business, 2) conduct additional financial and performance audits or reviews of any office, department, or agency funding in whole or in part by County funds, and 3) conduct investigations of an act or allegation of fraud, waste, or abuse in the obligation, expenditure, or use of county resources.
  2. Require the County Council to confirm the County Executives appointments of County Attorney, Chief of Police, and Fire Chief as well as allow the County Council, on the affirmative vote of not less than five members, to prevent removal of a County Attorney appointed by the County Executive.
  3. Remove the limit of 1,500 hours per calendar year for hourly rate contractual employees in the exempt service under Section 802(a)(14).
  4. Permit the County Council to increase the minimum value of purchases and contracts requiring full competitive bidding to an amount not less than $25,000 and not greater than $100,000.
  5. Modify the probationary period from six months to the time required to complete the departments entry-level training program plus twelve months for entry-level full-time classified sworn employees of the Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriffs Office, and the Department of Detention Facilities and to provide that a probationary period does not run while an employee is on paid or unpaid leave that exceeds 80 consecutive hours.
  6. Expand the initial term for acting Chief Administrative Officer or acting head of any office or department from 60 days to 120 days as well as allow the County Council to extend that term by up to two additional sex month periods instead of the current four months.
  7. Require the Anne Arundel County Human Relations Commission.

See the full Anne Arundel County ballot for more information.

Baltimore City will have eleven ballot questions, including whether to:

  1. Authorize the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to borrow up to $12,000,000 to be used for the planning, developing, executing, and making operative the Affordable Housing Program of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, including, but not limited to, the acquisition, by purchase, lease, condemnation or any other legal means, of land or property in the City of Baltimore; the payment of any and all costs and expenses incurred in connection with or incidental to the acquisition and management of the land or property; the payment of any and all costs and expenses incurred for or in connection with relocating and moving persons or other legal entities displaced by the acquisition of the land or property, and the disposition of land and property for such purposes, such costs to include but not limited to rental payment and home purchase assistance, housing counseling and buyer education, assistance, and activities to support the orderly and sustainable planning, preservation, rehabilitation, and development of economically diverse housing in City neighborhoods; support the Affordable Housing Trust Fund; support the elimination of unhealthful, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, lessening density, eliminating obsolete or other uses detrimental to the public welfare or otherwise removing or preventing the spread of blight or deterioration in the City of Baltimore; and for doing all things necessary, proper or expedient in connection therewith.
  2. Authorize the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to borrow up to $38,000,000 to be used for the acquisition of land or property to construct and erect new school buildings, athletic and auxiliary facilities; and for additions and improvements to or modernization or reconstruction of existing school buildings or facilities; and to equip all buildings to be constructed, erected, improved, modernized, or reconstructed; and for doing any and all things necessary, proper or expedient in connection therewith.
  3. Authorize the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to borrow up to $38,000,000 to be used for, or in connection with, planning, developing, executing and making operative the community, commercial, and industrial economic development programs of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore; the development or redevelopment, including, but not limited to, the comprehensive renovation or rehabilitation of any land or property, or any rights or interests therein hereinbefore mentioned, in the City of Baltimore, and the disposition of land and property for such purposes; the elimination of unhealthful, unsanitary, or unsafe conditions, lessening density, eliminating obsolete or other uses detrimental to the public welfare or otherwise removing or preventing the spread of blight or deterioration in the City of Baltimore; the creation of healthy, sanitary, and safe, and green conditions in the City of Baltimore; and authorizing loans and grants therefore; making loans and grants to various projects and programs related to growing businesses in the City; attracting and retaining jobs; providing homeownership incentives and home repair assistance; authorizing loans and grants to various projects and programs related to improving cultural life and promotion of tourism in Baltimore City and the lending or granting of funds to any person or other legal entity to be used for or in connection with the rehabilitation, renovation, redevelopment, improvement or construction of buildings and structures to be used or occupied for residential or commercial purposes; and for doing any and all things necessary, proper or expedient in connection therewith.
  4. Authorize the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to borrow up to $72,000,000 to be used for the development of public infrastructure owned or controlled by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore and the Enoch Pratt Free Library acquisition and development of property buildings owned and controlled by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the Enoch Pratt Library and public park or recreation land, property, buildings, structures or facilities; for the construction, erection, renovation, alteration, reconstruction, installation, improvement and repair of existing or new buildings, structures, or facilities to be or now being used by or in connection with the operations, function and activities of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, public parks and recreational programs; for the construction and development of streets, bridges, courthouses, city office buildings, police stations, fire stations, solid waste facilities, information technology, and public park and recreational and related land property and buildings; for the acquisition and installation of trees, for tree planting programs and for the equipping of any and all existing and new buildings, structures, and facilities authorized to be constructed, renovated, altered or improved by this Ordinance; and for doing any and all things necessary, proper or expedient in connection therewith.
  5. Require that a Charter Revision Commission be appointed at least once every 10 years to review and make
    recommendations for necessary deletions, additions, or revisions to the City Charter. The resolution also provides for the terms of the members, the manner of appointment, the duties of the Commission, and for the dissolution of the Commission after the completion of its duties.
  6. Amend the City Charter in order to authorize the City Council, by majority vote, to increase amounts of spending within the general fund or add new amounts for new purposes, so long as the amounts are not fixed by state or federal law and as long as the amounts added do not exceed the amount the City Council has reduced the proposed ordinance of estimates. New spending items added by City Council must be authorized by separate legislation. After the City Council’s reductions and additions are made, the amount of the operating budget and the capital budget cannot exceed the amounts proposed in the proposed Ordinance of Estimates.
  7. Reduce the number of votes by City Council members that are needed to override a mayoral veto from three-fourths of the members of the City Council to two-thirds of those members.
  8. Amend the City Charter in order to increase the amount of time in which the City Council can consider overriding a mayoral veto of legislation adopted by the City Council. The City Charter currently allows the City Council to override a mayoral veto no earlier than 5 days, but no more than 20 days, from the date a Mayor’s veto is read to the City Council. The amendment would add that if no meeting of the City Council is scheduled during that period, the City Council may override a veto at the next regular meeting of the City Council following the 20-day period. The amendment also provides that a veto cannot be overridden by a City Council that has been newly elected and sworn into office since the passage of the vetoed legislation.
  9. Amend the City Charter in order to provide for the removal from office of certain City elected officials. The bill provides that by a three-fourths vote the City Council may remove a council member, the Council President, the Mayor or the Comptroller for incompetency, misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty or felony or misdemeanor in office on charges brought by the Mayor, the City Council Committee on Legislative Investigations or by the Inspector General. Notice and an opportunity to be heard before the City Council are required.
  10. Require the City Auditor to give copies of agency audits to the agencies that were audited. It would also allow the City Auditor, in the furtherance of his or her duties, to issue subpoenas “to any municipal officer, municipal employee, or any other person receiving City funds” to produce documents.
  11. Establish the position of City Administrator as the Chief Administrative Officer of Baltimore City. The law would provide for how the City Administrator is appointed and removed and would establish the powers and duties of the City Administrator. The City Administrator would be required to appoint a Deputy City Administrator and certain other staff.

See the full Baltimore City ballot for more information.

Baltimore County will have ten ballot questions for voters, including whether to:

  1. Add Section 1013 to the Baltimore County Charter to establish a Citizens’ Election Fund System for candidates for County Council and County Executive beginning with the General Election to be held in 2026, provide that candidates may choose whether to participate in the system, establish a Citizens’ Election Fund Commission, require the Commission to determine the funding of the system, provide for the funding of the system, require the creation of a subfund to receive voluntary contributions by citizens, provide for the order of disbursements from the system, and authorize the County Executive to not fund the system if the County Executive determines that the County’s fiscal condition makes it imprudent to do so.
  2. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $54,990,000 for public works purposes, for the class of projects which includes, among other things, streets and highways, bridges, and storm drainage systems.
  3. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $15,000,000 for refuse disposal projects, including but not limited to the construction, reconstruction, improvement, acquisition, repair, and modernization of county refuse disposal facilities.
  4. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $46,000,000 for public operational buildings including, but not limited to, general, health, police, fire, recreation, libraries, senior center, and detention buildings or facilities and necessary or desirable equipment.
  5. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $35,000,000 for parks, preservation, and greenways projects, including but not limited to the acquisition of playgrounds, parks, and recreational facilities and the construction, improvement, repair, and maintenance of playgrounds, parks, and community centers.
  6. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $17,500,000 for community college projects, including but not limited to the construction, improvement, maintenance, and modernization of buildings and other improvements for the community colleges.
  7. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $200,000,000 for public school projects, including but not limited to acquisition, construction, reconstruction, improvement, extension, repair, maintenance, conversion, and modernization of public school buildings and sites.
  8. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $4,000,000 for agricultural and rural land preservation projects, including but not limited to the purchase of land, development rights, and conservation easements.
  9. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $2,500,000 for community improvement projects, including but not limited to construction, renovation, extension, alteration, repair, or modernization of street curbs, gutters, water, sewer, and other utilities, and sidewalk and pedestrian system improvements.
  10. Authorize and empower Baltimore County, Maryland to borrow $20,000,000 for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, extension, repair, and modernization of waterway improvement and stormwater-related projects, including but not limited to shoreline stabilization, shore erosion control, wetland restoration, and streambank and riverbank restoration.

See the full Baltimore County ballot for more information.

Cecil County will have one ballot question on whether to amend the County Charter to:

  1. Provide that non-elected Board Members, Committee Members, and Employees of State, County, and Municipal agencies, not directly supervised or substantially controlled by the Executive or Council, to be qualified to be County Council Members.

See the full Cecil County ballot for more information.

Frederick County will have four ballot questions, including whether to amend the County Charter to:

  1. Require the County Executive to provide any information that is requested by an individual County Council member which is for the purpose of introducing and evaluating legislation or to engage in the review and monitoring of Government programs, activities, and policy implementation.
  2. Reduce the percentage of assessable property the County can pledge for debt from 5 to 3 percent of assessable real property, and from 15 to 9 percent of assessable personal property.
  3. Require the County Council to fill a vacancy on the Council by choosing one of three persons from a list submitted by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating member. If no list is submitted or the vacating member was not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint a person it deems best qualified to hold office. If the Council fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the County Executive shall fill the vacancy by following the same procedure. All persons considered for appointment shall be presented to the public and shall be interviewed by either the Council or Executive, allowing for public comment, prior to appointment. If the vacancy occurs in the first year of the vacating member’s term, after a person is appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, a special election will be held to elect and fill the vacancy for the balance of the term.
  4. Provide a process to fill a vacancy in the position of County Executive. The County Council shall fill a vacancy of the Executive by choosing one of three persons from a list submitted by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating Executive. If no list is submitted or the vacating Executive was not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint a person it deems best qualified to hold office. If the Council fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the Council shall appoint the County’s Chief Administrative Officer. All persons considered for appointment shall be presented to the public and shall be interviewed, allowing for public comment, prior to appointment. If the vacancy occurs in the first year of the vacating Executive’s term, after a person is appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, a special election will be held to elect and fill the vacancy for the balance of the term.

See the full Frederick County ballot for more information.

Howard County will have three ballot questions, including whether to amend the Howard County Charter to:

  1. Allow the County Council to set dates for drawing new Council district borders. After each official count of everyone who lives in the County, the Council would quickly form a redistricting commission and set dates for the commission to submit a plan for new Council district borders, and for the plan to become law if the Council does not adopt a different plan. The dates for these actions are now set by the County Charter, which uses an outdated State election schedule.
  2. Shorten the term a resident would serve as a member on most County boards from five years to three years.
  3. Prohibit employment discrimination by Howard County based on a person’s disability, color, national origin, immigration status, age, occupation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family status, or personal appearance. The prohibition would no longer include the word sex and the County could still not make an employment decision based on a person’s political or religious opinions or associations or race.

See the full Howard County ballot for more information.

Montgomery County will have four ballot questions, including whether to amend the County Charter to:

  1. Prohibit the County Council from adopting a tax rate on real property that exceeds the tax rate on real property approved for the previous year, unless all current Councilmembers vote affirmatively for the increase. This amendment would replace the current property tax limit, which requires an affirmative vote of all current Councilmembers to levy a tax on real property that would produce total revenue that exceeds the total revenue produced by the tax on real property in the preceding fiscal year plus any increase in the Consumer Price Index. The current property tax limit exempts real property tax revenue derived from: (1) newly constructed property; (2) newly rezoned property; (3) certain property assessed differently under State law; (4) property that has undergone a change in use; and (5) property in a development tax district to provide funding for capital improvements.
  2. Prohibit the County Council from levying an ad valorem tax on real property that would produce total revenue (not including property tax revenue from certain enumerated sources) that exceeds the total revenue produced by the tax on real property in the preceding fiscal year plus a percentage of the previous year’s real property tax revenues that equals any increase in the Consumer Price Index. Section 305 currently permits the County Council to exceed the limit on real property tax revenue only upon the affirmative vote of all current Councilmembers.
  3. Expand the County Council to consist of 11, rather than the current 9, Council Members; increase from 5 to 7 the number of Council Districts; and elect 7 Council Members by district and 4 Council Members at large.

See the full Montgomery County ballot for more information.

Prince George’s County will have five ballot questions, including whether to enable the County to:

  1. Borrow money and issue bonds in an amount not exceeding $178,150,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation, or repair of, Public Works and Transportation Facilities (including roads and bridges, parking lots and maintenance facilities), including the acquisition and development of sites, therefore, the architectural and engineering services incident thereto, and the acquisition and installation of necessary fixed permanent equipment therefor, as defined therein.
  2. Borrow money and issue bonds in an amount not exceeding $28,829,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation, or repair of Library Facilities, including the acquisition and development of sites therefore, the architectural and engineering services incident thereto, and the acquisition and installation of necessary fixed permanent equipment therefor, as defined therein.
  3. Borrow money and issue bonds in an amount not exceeding $44,477,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation, or repair of, Public Safety Facilities (including Fire Department Facilities), including the acquisition and development of sites therefore, the architectural and engineering services incident thereto, and the acquisition and installation of necessary fixed permanent equipment therefor, as defined therein.
  4. Borrow money and issue bonds in an amount not exceeding $133,000,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation, or repair of County Buildings, including the acquisition and development of sites therefore, the architectural and engineering services incident thereto, and the acquisition and installation of necessary fixed permanent equipment therefor, as defined therein.
  5. Borrow money and issue bonds in an amount not exceeding $121,714,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation, or repair of Community College Facilities, including the acquisition and development of sites therefore, the architectural and engineering services incident thereto, and the acquisition and installation of necessary fixed permanent equipment therefor; as defined therein.

See the full Prince George’s ballot for more information.

Talbot County will have four ballot questions, including whether to:

  1. Add a new section to the Talbot County Charter which would waive the residency requirement for the County Attorney, County Planning Officer, and County Engineer by an affirmative vote of four-fifths of the full Council.
  2. Clarify that to identify properties for revenue cap purposes, the County will use the Constant Yield Tax Rate Certification prepared by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. Currently, Section 614 of the Talbot County Charter establishes a cap on the amount of revenue the County can derive from taxes levied on real estate. In order to apply the cap, the County must identify which properties are to be included in the calculation. Section 614 currently specifies the properties as those “existing on the County real property tax rolls at the commencement of the County fiscal year.” However, this is not an accurate description of the properties the County actually uses. The County’s source for identifying properties is the Constant Yield Tax Rate Certification prepared by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
  3. Eliminate the reference to CPI-U in Section 614 while leaving the 2% cap on revenue in place. Currently, Section 614 of the Talbot County Charter establishes a cap on the amount of revenue the County can derive from taxes levied on real estate. The cap on revenue is two percent (2%) compared to the previous year, or Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U), whichever is less. CPI-U, however, is not an accurate measure because it represents the increase in the cost of a basket of consumer goods in urban areas, not rural areas, like Talbot County.
  4. Authorize the County Council to raise revenues above the revenue cap by up to one cent (1¢) per one hundred dollars of assessed value for five years only. Currently, Section 614 of the Talbot County Charter establishes a cap on the amount of revenue the County can derive from taxes levied on real estate. The cap on revenue is two percent (2%) compared to the previous year, or Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U), whichever is less. Talbot County’s revenue cap is one of the most restrictive in the State of Maryland, making it extremely difficult for the County to raise sufficient revenue to fund certain initiatives, including key public safety projects, such as a new facility for the Talbot County Sheriff; additional equipment and personnel for the Talbot County Department of Emergency Services; and, a new facility to house the Talbot County Health Department. The County Council is, therefore, asking the voters to give the Council authority to increase revenues above the revenue cap, but only temporarily and with a limit of up to one cent (1¢) per one hundred dollars of assessed value.

See the full Talbot County ballot for more information.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State Launches Online Tracking Tool for Mail-In Ballot Submissions

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Talbot Ballot Question Aims to Repeal Residency Requirement for County Employees

Maryland State Board of Elections: Daily Updates of Sent and Returned Mail-In Ballots

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Prince George’s Urges Additional State Funding to Support General Election

Prince George’s County Joint Letter to Governor Larry Hogan (September 22, 2020)

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Maryland Congressional Delegation Letter to Governor Hogan (July 9, 2020)

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