Auditor access to fraud reports, more zoning notices and changes to county purchasing power make up the three questions before Anne Arundel County residents on Election Day.
They’re on the ballot with two statewide questions, which would change voter registration and how money from casino revenues is considered in creating the state budget.
County questions are listed as A, B and C on the ballot. The ballot includes bubbles “for” and “against.” Voting for the question will amend the county’s charter to activate the question. A vote against keep the county’s charter the same.
Perhaps the most complicated looking proposition is Question B, the one that allows the County Council to change the threshold from $25,000 to $50,000 on purchasing decisions.
This means the county could do less strenuous bidding requirements on more contracts. Passing the question does not automatically raise that threshold; it merely gives the council the power to change it.
If the council does this, it means the county could do a more simplified bidding process for any contract up to $50,000. Currently, the county uses its simplified process for any contracts going up to $25,000. The $50,000 mark would put the county above Baltimore, Harford, Prince George’s, Howard and Calvert counties but below Montgomery and Fairfax counties.
This means they seek out three separate bids without the formal request for purchase process, said Central Services Officer Christine Romans. The formal process requires advertisements and more detailed paperwork. All purchases go through a vetting process, Romans said.
The Capital receives advertising money from the county as it is required to advertise those contracts within the newspaper.
“We would like the charter amendment because we think it will allow our staff to focus on the $50,000 and higher procurements,” Romans said.
The question also comes with a transparency element. If passed, the county will post purchases from $5,000 and up to its website.
Some contracts are already posted online with others going up as part of the Office of Central Services software upgrades. Codifying the transparency means other administrations will have to live up to that standard, Romans said.
Question C on the ballot would require the county auditor receive a copy of any report related to employee theft or fraud. It also allows the auditor to inspect records related to the report and forward any findings of the fraud investigation to the County Council or county executive.
County Auditor Phyllis Clancy said passage of the question would increase her office’s access to those reports. It helps the auditor’s office determine where there may be risk within county departments for future audits or reviews.
The county executive’s office said they support the question as well, but that’s because those reports are already forwarded to the auditor’s office.
Clancy didn’t back up the county executive office’s claims.
“That hasn’t been our experience,” she said.
Question A would change county law to require public notice signs when amendments are directly applied to the county comprehensive zoning ordinance.
The county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance is a massive undertaking that can shape and fold the county’s development future for years to come.
This question would require zoning notices to be placed on the property before amendments are made to the comprehensive zoning ordinance. The notices will be required of requests not proposed or reviewed by the Office of Planning and Zoning.
Zoning change requests are typically posted on a property 30 days prior to a hearing on the rezoning. County law currently doesn’t require those notices when a direct amendment is made to the comprehensive zoning ordinance.
The resolution was proposed by Councilman Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, who was responded to concerns about lack of notice during the ordinance amendment process.
State ballot questions
Voters also will face two state ballot questions:
Question 1, if approved, would change the state Constitution to require a governor to allocate state revenues from gambling to education, in addition to the legal minimum funding for public schools.
The policy, known as a “lockbox,” would phase in over several years. It would provide an estimated additional half a billion dollars for state schools by 2022. The General Assembly approved the lockbox idea with near-unanimous votes in both chambers, and Gov. Larry Hogan supports it.
The goal is to stop a governor from being able to use the casino revenues to meet the legal baselines for school funding.
In practice, it is likely only to have that effect for a few years. A state Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan commission because its chairman is former University System of Maryland Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan, is examining school funding. It is expected to propose steep increases in spending. If lawmakers adopt higher funding requirements, the casino money could be used to meet them.
Amid a national debate on access to the franchise, voters in Maryland are deciding Question 2. It would allow same-day registration, giving people the power to sign up to cast ballots on Election Day itself.
Since the 2016 election, Maryland residents have been able during early voting to register to vote, or change their address, and cast a ballot the same day. The Question 2 ballot measure would add Maryland to the list of 15 states and the District of Columbia that have same-day registration on Election Day.
The Maryland ballot issue, which if passed would require changing the state Constitution, also divided Republicans and Democrats when the General Assembly agreed on a party-line vote to send it to a referendum.
To register during that period, a person has to be able to prove residency by showing a driver’s license or identification card, a utility bill or other authorized form of proof. The elections board prequalifies residents in the Motor Vehicle Administration’s database, checking names against data of felony convictions and deaths, so voters with driver’s licenses can cast a regular ballot. Those who aren’t in MVA records can still register, but cast a provisional ballot that is scrutinized after Election Day.
Should voters support the measure, the General Assembly would have to pass further legislation allowing same-day registration to go into effect.
Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this story.