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Howard County's ballot question asks voters to give council more time to consider local legislation

Howard County election judges take a training class before the primary in June.
Howard County election judges take a training class before the primary in June. (BSMG file)

The outgoing Howard County Council has one final request of county voters — to extend the amount of time new members of the council can consider proposed legislation.

A question on the general election ballot, if approved, would change the county’s charter to give the lawmakers more time to act on legislation.

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The council found itself in a pickle last November when votes on legislation to update the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and regulate mulching practices were declared invalid because the bills had expired.

The bills were introduced on a Sunday and lived for 65 days. An overwhelming amount of public testimony required the bills to be twice extended by 30 days.

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The council vote came on a Monday, one day after the deadline to vote. The amendment, in the form of a ballot question, would extend by five days the time the council has to vote before a proposal expires.

In a culmination of months of controversy and debate, the Howard County Council voted on Monday night to pass an update to its land use policy, the adequate public facilities ordinance, as well as a bill to regulate mulching practices in the county. However, on Tuesday, the votes were declared invalid.

“The amendment is about as innocuous as innocuous gets,” said Councilman Greg Fox, a Republican who represents rural portions of Howard County. He said the scenario could happen again. Voters will elect five new council members. Incumbents are either facing term limits or running for other office.

Early voting starts Oct. 25. Early voting centers are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Nov. 1.

There are four early voting centers in Howard County: The Bain Senior Center, 5470 Ruth Keeton Way, Columbia; Miller Branch Library, 9421 Frederick Road, Ellicott City; Ridgely’s Run Community Center, 8400 Mission Road, Jessup; and Howard County Fairgrounds, 2210 Fairgrounds Road, West Friendship.

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