Only a handful of measures requested by the Frederick Board of County Commissioners were approved by the General Assembly this year.
Chief among them were bills that would allow the county to take on an additional $66 million in bonding authority and give the next board of commissioners its first raise in 15 years. The county sheriff also would receive a pay hike after the next election, while sheriff's deputies and members of the Division of Fire and Rescue Services would be permitted to unionize and bargain collectively.
But several other proposals sought by county officials -- such as creating a new real estate transfer tax to pay for school construction and affordable housing, and a bill giving Frederick County the authority to determine the site of a power plant -- died in the General Assembly or even before the session began.
The failed measures also included a bill requested by the county sheriff that would have penalized drivers who fail to move into the next lane to avoid emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road. A request by the county commissioners to force the Board of Education to negotiate with its unions in open session also failed, as did a measure that would have allowed law enforcement officers to arrest underage drinkers who exhibit signs of intoxication.
Among legislation put forward by the delegation in addition to the board's annual wish list was a failed bid to allow the county to use a $300,000 state grant to create an agricultural educational center. A proposal by Republican Sens. David R. Brinkley and Alex X. Mooney that would reduce property taxes driven higher by rising tax assessments also failed. The bill proposed altering a program that grants tax credits for any amount above 110 percent of the previous year's tax assessment. The measure instead suggested the ceiling be capped at 105 percent, beginning next year. The bill was passed in the Senate but went nowhere in the House of Delegates.
The General Assembly concluded its work Monday night after a 90-day session marked by deepening partisan rancor, particularly over a new attempt to permit slot machine gambling that, among other things, could have placed up to 2,500 slot machines in Frederick County.
John L. "Lennie" Thompson Jr. (R), president of the Board of County Commissioners, said the most important achievement this session was probably the expansion of the county's bonding authority.
"If that had not passed, you'd be in a fix as far as school construction," Thompson said.
The commissioners had requested that their salaries be tied to those of state lawmakers, thereby raising their annual pay for the first time since 1990, to $43,500. The General Assembly instead passed a measure raising county commissioners' salaries to $45,000 from the current $30,000. Similarly, the commissioners asked that the county sheriff's salary be linked to that of a lieutenant colonel in the state police; instead, the General Assembly approved a measure that would simply increase the county sheriff's pay to $100,000 from $80,000 a year after the next election.
The General Assembly passed a measure that calls on the Frederick County Human Relations Department to investigate complaints about discrimination in housing and employment based on family status. The measure also authorizes the investigation of discrimination complaints in housing based on the source of a renter's income. The measures were requested to address discrimination against people who have children living with them or people whose rents are subsidized by the government.
"By and large, the county did quite well," said Del. Paul S. Stull (R), who heads the Frederick County delegation.
The delegation declined to pursue a renewed request from the Board of Commissioners to enact a 1 percent real estate transfer tax on the resale of residential properties, and so help pay for school construction and affordable housing.