It's no surprise that lone Republican County Council member Greg Fox had some different priorities than his Democratic colleagues when choosing which proposed amendments to the Howard County Charter were the most vital to send to the voters this election.
But will the amendments Fox valued and the council voted down ever be put on the ballot?
The council was considering 10 proposed charter amendments, which must be approved by a majority of voters before they can take effect.
Howard County Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley advised the council to put no more than five questions on the already question-heavy ballot this year, suggesting they put the remaining charter amendments on the 2014 ballot.
Whether that happens is in the hands of the council, which must do so before the 2014 election, when they are all up for re-election.
One of five amendments that did not make it on the 2012 ballot was a proposal from Council member Calvin Ball, a Columbia Democrat, to raise the number of maximum terms a Council member can serve from three to four. He withdrew it.
Four other amendments, three of which were proposed by Fox, were voted down. Not tabled (the charter amendments were resolutions, which unlike bills never die on the table). Not amended to note the resolution wouldn't take effect until 2014, if approved by the voters that year. But voted down.
Asked about the choice to vote down the amendments, council chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, a Columbia Democrat, said it was the easiest approach given the other legislation the council had to vote on that night (the General Plan and a whopping nearly three dozen amendments to it). She noted that the resolutions are already drafted, so it will be easy for the council to reintroduce them later.
But when 2014 rolls around, will the council actually bring the amendments back up? And if so, will the council support Fox's proposals?
One of Fox's amendments would have refined language in the section of the charter that states the county budget must include "a statement of the proposed contingency reserves which shall not exceed three per centum of the general fund and of any other fund."
During this year's budget discussions, Fox argued that since the fire tax is a separate fund, it should have to abide by the 3 percent rule. However, the Office of Law, responding to a request from Fox, said the charter language is open to multiple interpretations.
Fox's charter amendment would have made the language only open to one interpretation — that the 3 percent rule should apply to every separate operating fund.
The council voted down Fox's proposal in a 3-2 vote, with Ellicott City Democrat Courtney Watson also supporting it.
The contingency fund discussion stemmed from the debate over a fire tax increase the council passed with the budget in May. The new fire tax rate of 17.6 cents per $100 of assessed value will produce $78 million in revenues; and $15 million, or 19 percent, of that is to be put in contingency. Fox voted against it.
Given that the four Democrats on the council voted for that budget and rejected Fox's arguments for limiting the fire-tax increase/contingency reserves, it was unlikely they would support Fox's charter amendment. Watson didn't state a reason when she surprisingly voted for it.
Another failed charter amendment would have required the council to pass a law establishing procedures for amending capital projects after the budget for the fiscal year has already been adopted.
While recommended by the Charter Review Committee, the need for it stemmed from Fox, who felt County Executive Ken Ulman in the past has tried to tie projects that come up mid-budget cycle to existing projects to avoid abiding by the charter rule requiring a supermajority vote for new projects.
Fox's concerns stem from the transfer of funds last year from one existing capital project to another to pay for a traffic study to support a new access road for the former Gateway School site in Clarksville. The transfer was unanimously approved by the council, but only after members passed two amendments to qualm concerns about the proposal.
Fox's other failed charter amendment was to add being convicted of or pleading nolo contendere to a felony as cause for forfeiture of office. However, even he voted against that one, noting "we'll do it next time." Watson, the only member who didn't limit herself to supporting five, voted for it.