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January 28, 2009

Commissioners oppose time extension to petition code home rule bills

Delegation members may pursue legislation anyway

CUMBERLAND — Despite opposition from the Allegany County commissioners, two local lawmakers said Wednesday they will still consider introducing legislation that would extend the time county residents have to petition a code home rule bill to referendum.

In a letter Monday to the delegation, the commissioners argued that current law already provides for additional time in certain situations. The public has up to 40 days after a bill’s passage to begin a petition drive. If 5 percent of the county’s registered voters sign the petition within 40 days, the petition effort now receives an additional 40 days. Signatures from 10 percent of registered voters are enough to secure a spot on the ballot in the next election.

A successful petition drive would halt implementation of any code home rule bill until voters went to the polls in the next election.

“We feel this is adequate time to gather signatures and submit a filing within the current law,” the commissioners wrote to the delegation.

Delegates Kevin Kelly and LeRoy Myers comprise half of the four-member District 1 legislative delegation. Kelly said on Wednesday the issue “does nothing to address the situation we had with the Bureau of Police,” referring to the commissioners’ July 2008 expansion of the county police force, which resulted in the county taking over Sheriff David Goad’s road patrol duties.

The bill that created the Bureau of Police was introduced by the commissioners and passed in the summer of 2007 — on the premise, Kelly said, that everyone believed the commissioners’ promises that the initiative would not later expand.

Any extension “does not address the situations where the intent is to perpetuate a deceit upon the citizenry,” Kelly said.

Kelly was referring to the apparent lack of transparency by which the commissioners took over road patrol duties from Goad last summer after nearly 12 months of promising not to do just that.

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