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Opinion: Redistricting makes home rule more important than ever

With respect to the state legislature, the phrase "Carroll County Delegation" is about to become inaccurate.

The statewide redistricting process, particularly regarding the House of Delegates, has done us in.

Of the eight delegates to be elected to our county's delegation in 2014, only three are guaranteed to be Carroll County residents. Because of the way the districts will be redrawn, three will be from a district that is vastly dominated by Frederick County and two will be from a Howard County district that has just a small section of Carroll in it.

But because those districts will have a toe in Carroll, all their delegates will be members of the Carroll County Delegation — and will have a say in our affairs.

Why are these counties being given influence over Carroll? Well, they have been known to elect Democrats now and then.

Carroll has not elected a Democrat to the legislature in recent decades. At the state level, this makes our county "not in play." So we can be balkanized at will. We don't count in Annapolis and this slap in the face is the result.

Unlike most counties in the Baltimore region, we don't even have home rule.

What is home rule? It's a form of governance that, basically, says any law that is local to the county is passed by county government — and not the state legislature. (Although, the legislature can still pass laws that apply to all "code counties" of a certain class).

I believe home rule would give Carroll better control over the nature of its government. Many issues that must go to the legislature today could be settled locally under home rule.

Really, home rule should be favored by the Republican Party in Carroll County, and the Democratic Party, too.

Under the new configuration of districts, if the legislature gets involved in key local issues — such as, say, waste disposal — we will be outnumbered in our own delegation. Home rule would increase our control over our own affairs.

The last time home rule was proposed, it was effectively blocked by what I describe as the "pro-growth" wing of the Republican Party.

But things have changed. Control of our delegation has slipped out of Carroll County's hands under the new redistricting, and I believe it makes sense now, more than ever, to put home rule on the November ballot.

For the record, this column has favored charter government, but when that failed, home rule was the next best thing. Years ago on these pages I laid out the specifics for code home rule. Here they are again:

The method by which home rule can be established is simplicity itself. Two thirds of the commissioners can resolve that the county become a home rule county. That question then appears on the ballot of the next general election. If a majority of those voting on this question say "yes," then the county becomes a home rule county.

It is as simple as that.

This is a rare opportunity for all three political factions in Carroll County, both wings of the Republican Party and the Democrats, to unite in a common cause to do good things for the county.

It is up to the commissioners to get the ball rolling, and here's an opportunity for citizens to have a voice: Let your particular commissioner know that you favor Code Home Rule to be on the November ballot.

And tell him or her why.

We don't need delegates from other counties meddling in our affairs, and when the new redistricting maps kick in for the 2014 elections, that's what we'll be facing.

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