In a move expected to generate vigorous preelection debate, the Montgomery County Council introduced a series of County Charter amendments yesterday that would curtail government spending, allow voter recall of elected officials and permit collective bargaining for most county employes.
A simple majority of the council must approve the amendments to place them on the ballot for voter referendum in November.
Preliminary indications yesterday were that while the budget-cutting and recall amendments have enough council support to actually reach the ballot, the collective bargaining proposition may not.
In introducing eight possible charter amendments yesterday, the council said it would seek citizen reaction at a public hearing July 20 before finally deciding on the suggested charter questions by the Aug. 21 filing deadline.
The amendments to curtail government spending were designated in part to defuse small but growing taxpayers initiatives for a balot question to freeze property tax rates, similar to Proposition 13. approved by California voters last month.
Council member William Colman proposed two questions (only one of which will be chosen for the ballot) to tie increases in the county government operating budget to the annual rise in the Washington area cost of living.
"This expenditure-controlling concept is sounder and less chaotic than the tax-cutting proposals like Proposition 13, which then make the budget a hostage of state and local political considerations as we are seeing happen in California," Colman said.
One of Colman's recommendations would restrict increases in the operating budget from one year to the next to the rise in the cost-of-living as indicated by the area's Consumer Price Index. The other would limit the increase to the cost-of-living increase plus 2 percent. The amendments state that the council could override the budget restriction by a five-vote majority.
Council member John Menke offered an amendment to require that any capital improvements valued at over $5 million or determined to be of "sufficient public importance" by the council would have to be individually authorized by passage of a law.
That means that voters would then have the option to challenge any of these projects in a referendum if they gained 10,000 signatures on petitions.
Council member DICKRAN Hovsepian suggested an amendment to permit collective bargaining for most of the 6,000 county employes not in managerial and confidential positions.
Hovsepian called the idea a "continuation of the actions the council has taken for several years" - first in passing "meet and confer" legislation for some employes last year and then in unsuccessfully asking the state legislature to grant collective bargaining for Montgomery County public employes.
The proposed amendments would also prohibit strikes. Only teachers in the county now have the right to bargain collectively.
Several council members echoed Vice President Neal Potter's assertion that the collective bargaining proposition is a "somewhate complex matter" and possibly should be left off the ballot.
"Although I favor collective bargaining," Colman said, "I think this is trying to hurry history along."