January 28, 2020 County Council Observer Corp Report
LWV Observers: Eileen Robier, Betsy Sexton, and Carol Wynne, submitted by B. Sexton
To our members: Did you know that Council Work Session are live streamed and archived on the Baltimore County Council website? Under “Meetings” click on “Work Session Agendas and Videos,” https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil/meetings/index.html The following review is from our league visit on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.
Resolution 21-20 Sponsors- Council members Kach (D 3), Marks (D 5) and Patoka (D 2)
Background: How can the council offer more opportunity for more public involvement in the legislative process? Does the 2 p.m. work session create an obstacle for many working people who would like to testify in person?
This Resolution would change the time of the bi-weekly work session from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. or later, as determined by the council Chair. At work sessions, citizens can give in-person input on bills before the council. Citizens can also testify on bills after they are voted on in bi-weekly evening legislative sessions. Council members will also consider holding legislative sessions at 4 p.m. and work sessions at 6 p.m. so that county department heads and other employees would not work late – incurring overtime costs on two additional days each month.
- Some, but not all council members have had constituent complaints about 2 p.m. work sessions.
- Citizens always have the options of email, letters, phone calls and in-person meetings with council people. Council proceedings are now live streamed and archived online. If they know in advance that a bill will be introduced at an evening legislative session, citizens can comment on it at the end of the evening session. Councilwoman Bevins asked, “Can the Council do better about communicating about upcoming legislation?”
- When bills are amended, there is often too little time for public comment before they are voted on. Adopted in August 2019, Resolution 92-19 extended from 40 days to 65 days the maximum time allowed for council consideration and public input on a bill. This requires a majority vote by the council.\
- FM-2 (Contract) District 2 (Councilman Patoka) would acquire for $432,000 a 4-acre parcel of land on Church Lane using County Open Space funds to create a pocket park. (Per Councilman Patoka, District 2 does not have a single Rec Center.)
- Bill 2-20 would require that an assistive listening system such as an induction loop system be installed whenever county funds are used to build or renovate a facility that has an indoor “assembly area” needing a public address system. Also, the Commission on Disabilities would be required to have 1-3 members representing those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Our next visits are on February 11 and 25. We urge all members to join us as we continue to visit work sessions.
October 27, 2019
League of Women Voters of Baltimore County testimony to the Baltimore County Council Concerning the HOME Act Bill No. 49-19.
The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County is proud to be a member of the Baltimore County Voters for Fair Housing Coalition. We support passage of Bill No. 49-19 without a percent cap amendment.
The League has worked for many years for equal opportunity in access to housing, employment and education. Our members in the Baltimore County chapter have voted to make the HOME Act a priority issue.
As you know, the HOME Act addresses a difficulty that some county residents face – being turned away from rental housing solely because of the source of their income. This legislation will de-concentrate poverty and will open up housing opportunities throughout the county. Those with Housing Choice Vouchers will have a fair chance to have their rental applications considered. It will reduce the time it now takes to find housing and make it easier for working families to move closer to their jobs. For families with school age children the HOME Act would also mean greater choice in school districts. No landlord will be prohibited from screening potential tenants, including rental history and ability to pay rent.
Why do we oppose a percent cap amendment to Bill No. 49-19? Such a cap would unfairly stigmatize Housing Choice Voucher holders and contravene the principle of equality of opportunity for all people, a foundation of fair housing and equal protection laws.
League of Women Voters members live in all areas of the county, and we want our neighborhoods and the county as a whole to thrive. We believe that our county should join the 12 states and 75 jurisdictions (including Anne Arundel, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery Counties) that have added source of income to their fair housing laws.
Submitted by Betsy Sexton, Board of Directors Advocacy Chair