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Harford Charter Review Board discusses council qualifications, bill passage time limits

BY KAYLA BAWROSKI, kabawroski@theaegis.com

12:13 PM EDT, September 19, 2011

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Qualifications of county council members, redistricting procedures and limits on post-council employment by the county were among issues discussed by members of the Harford County Charter Review Board at their meeting in Bel Air Thursday.

The board also looked at the length of time the charter allows for the county to enact a bill following its introduction, as well as legal advertising requirements.

Richard Norling, chair of the charter board's executive/legislative subcommittee, presented a list of 27 issues his subcommittee has for suggested further review by the full board.

The county council redistricting procedure, how the county advertises hearings and a bill's shelf life are among the biggest of those issues, Norling said his panel concluded.

The charter states that if a bill is not passed in 45 business days it dies for lack of action, but, according to Norling, several neighboring counties have 60-day limits. The charter also states that once a bill is introduced, a hearing has to be scheduled and advertised for two weeks in newspapers.

In response to a question from fellow board member Frank Hertsch, Norling also explained his subcommittee's issue with Section 207 of the charter, which deals with the qualifications of council members and states a member cannot become a paid employee of the county government within two years of leaving the council.

"We're the only county that prevents them from having county employment for the two years after they leave office," Norling said.

Stephen Winter, the county's longtime bond counsel, also brought up Section 509, which mandates that the county executive submit the budget no later than three months prior to the start of the upcoming fiscal year July 1.

Although he didn't disagree with the time limit, Winter pointed out that there is no penalty if the county executive fails to submit the budget on time, which he said happened in Baltimore County approximately 20 years ago.

"I don't know if it needs to be addressed, but it's something to think about anyway," Winter said.

Other business

Franklin Hajek, chair of the treasury/budget subcommittee, gave a brief report on their first meeting, where they identified a few charter sections for a closer examination for verbiage and word clarification. They also plan on reaching out to the county administration, he added, to see if there are any sections they found difficult.

For now, Hajek said, they have no specific sections in mind to discuss.

The planning and zoning subcommittee, chaired by Hertsch, did not meet prior to Thursday's meeting, but plans to meet within a few weeks, as do the other subcommittees.

The next Charter Review Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Colored High School building in Bel Air at 6:30 p.m.