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Commissioners consider paying telecommuters to move to Carroll County, set to discuss legislative ideas with delegation next week

Should the county pay telecommuters to buy houses in Carroll? That’s one of the legislative concepts the commissioners considered Thursday — along with regulating towing companies, gerrymandering and banning plastic bags — ahead of a meeting next week of Carroll County’s delegation to Annapolis.

Leading up to the next session of the General Assembly, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners will meet with delegates Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in the Reagan Room of the county office building to express concepts they’d like to see considered by the General Assembly.

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Del. Trent Kittleman, R-9A; Del. Susan Krebs, R-5; Del. Jesse Pippy, R-4; Sen. Justin Ready, R-5; Del. April Rose, R-5; and Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-5, are scheduled to attend, according to the commissioners’ office. Sen. Katie Hester, D-9, is unavailable and Sen. Michael Hough, R-4, is sending a representative in his place. The meeting is open to the public.

Remote workers

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, on Thursday suggested creating a program that would enable the county to offer monetary incentives for people who work from home to move to Carroll County.

The remote worker grant program would allow the county to contribute a sum toward closing costs on buying a home, according to the agenda. How much the county contributes has yet to be determined.

Frazier said this program could encourage people to move to Carroll who will have less impact on county roads because they “telecommute” or work from home.

Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said “there’s a lot of benefits” to this idea, but questioned whether taxpayer money should be devoted to such a program. Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said he opposed the idea and would rather see the county focus on finding ways to keep young people in the county who move and find jobs elsewhere.

Stephen Wantz, R-District 2, said the remote worker grant program could tackle that issue by giving funds to any remote worker who buys a house in the county, not just people who move into Carroll from somewhere else.

The board agreed to bring the idea to the delegates.

Towing

Wantz had suggested during the commissioners’ Aug. 8 meeting that the county set fee limits for towing companies after he learned of an instance when an ambulance received a large bill for a short-distance tow. Upon researching, Wantz realized Carroll does not have any towing regulations, unlike neighboring counties.

On Thursday, commissioners discussed legislation that would enable the county to adopt rules and regulations for the licensing, maintenance, and operation of towing companies in Carroll, including fee limits for towing, recovery, and storage of vehicles impounded from public streets, according to the agenda.

“Right now you couldn’t pass an ordinance if you wanted to,” county attorney Tim Burke said.

Rothstein questioned whether the legislation the board is asking for should focus on licensing and operations of tow companies.

“I believe we should be focusing our attention on taking care of our community ... where the real primary issue is, and that’s the fee limits,” Rothstein said.

Legislative liaison Mike Fowler noted the proposal would be just to enable the commissioners to adopt towing regulations. Whether the commissioners choose to regulate fees or licensing would be decided later.

Redistricting

Bouchat asked for the board’s support for a new article in the Maryland Constitution that would prevent gerrymandering.

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The article would establish standards for drawing congressional districts, “establish a recurring decennial redistricting convention consisting of non-partisan elected members (excluding government officials),” require a redistricting convention to divide the state into districts, and “provide the redistricting convention with certain duties,” according to the agenda.

With the 2020 census on the horizon and redistricting forthcoming, Bouchat said now is the best time for action. This would be a “good opportunity for us to support this legislation which would empower our citizens to convene a convention and help draw the boundaries. I think this would help eliminate the gerrymandering issue that the Supreme Court dodged," Bouchat said.

Although commissioners agreed gerrymandering is bad, they did not support stopping it this way.

Rothstein said such action “falls outside” their responsibilities as a board of commissioners.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re asking, but I don’t believe from the county government we should be telling the state to move forward with this,” Rothstein said.

Frazier suggested Bouchat bring his idea to the delegates as an individual. Bouchat said he wanted the board’s backing to have a greater impact.

The board did not agree to support the legislative concept.

Plastic bag ban

Frazier tried to push forward a plastic bag ban, similar to what the City of Westminster voted upon in May.

Frazier, whose district includes Westminster, suggested enabling legislation that would allow the commissioners to prohibit the use of plastic bags by commercial establishments, with some exceptions. Bags used for wrapping plant material that could spoil, bags used by restaurants for takeout and delivery, and bags used by small non-franchise businesses with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt, according to the agenda.

“I will say plastic bags have become a nuisance,” Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said.

They end up in sewage grinders, in fields and waterways, Weaver said.

The commissioners asked for time to review Westminster’s ordinance before deciding whether to support the legislative concept.

Also discussed Thursday were legislative concepts that would require agricultural science classes for grades 6 through 8, allowing establishments that sell alcohol for on-site consumption to be open until 2 a.m. instead of 1 a.m. (except for Sunday nights), reforming the conditions of pretrial release regarding cash bail, and projects for possible bond bill legislation.

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