Five amendments to the Maryland State Constitution will appear on the ballot Nov. 4 as Questions 1 through 5. To be adopted, questions 2 and 3 require a majority of the votes cast in the state. Questions 1, 4 and 5 need a majority in the city or county that the amendment would affect, plus a majority of statewide votes.
Question 1 concerns the election of Anne Arundel County Council members.
A "for" vote would give the Anne Arundel County Council the authority to amend its charter so that council members could be elected by councilmanic districts, or by voters of the entire county, or by a combination of the two.
A vote "Against" the amendment would continue the current system in which council members run from one of seven residential districts, but are elected by the voters of the entire county. Those opposed to the amendment do not want to give the council the authority to change the current county-wide election.
Question 2 would consolidate the six courts of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City into a single, unified Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
There are eight judicial circuits in the state, Baltimore City comprising the eighth circuit. That circuit is the only one of the eight currently made up of six separate courts which are known collectively as the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City.
A vote "for" this amendment would consolidate those courts and a vote "against" would continue the current system.
Those for the amendment say it is necessary to eliminate the confusion that litigants face in Baltimore City and that a simplified court system would result in more effective administration of justice. It is also viewed as the first step in the unification of the state's circuit courts into courts of general jurisdiction, as is the case with district courts.
Those opposed to the amendment cite the loss of jobs of court personnel and clerks in the consolidation.
Question 3 is an amendment that is contingent on Question 2 and concerns the automatic right of removal, which is the right to be granted a change of venue to another court by simply rquesting a transfer.
In 1975, the Maryland Court of appeals decided to make the automatic right of removal inoperative in civil cases because in Baltimore City, an automatic removal could simply result in the case going to one of the Supreme Bench's six courts and be heared by the same jurors. The General Assembly has decided that if Baltimore City's courts are consolidated, civil cases should still not have the automatic right of removal. The amendment proposed in Question 3 would keep the current system of allowing a party in a civil law case which was begun in one court to have the case transferred to another court, if the person can show that he would be unable to obtain a fair and impartial trail.
If the amendment proposed in question 2 is not passed, question 3 becomes moot.
Question 4 is an amendment to permit the expansion of the baltimore City loan program for the rehabilitation of residential and commerical buildings. Currently the legislature may authorize the city to make or guarantee loans only to the owners of buildings. A "for" vote would permit the loans to be made or guaranteed not only to owners but to any other person or legal entity. Loans also could be made for the purchase or construction of commerical buildings.
In 1972, Baltimore City began a low interest loan program to owners of city properties who were willing to rehabilitate them in order to stem the decline of the tax base in the city. Proponents say this amendment is a further step to encourage private rehabilitation of residential buildings, and the construction of commerical buildings to protect the tax base in Baltimore City.
Question 5 is an amendment to give Wicomico County the "quick-take" authority to acuqire land for public use when the Wicomico County Council finds there is an immediate need for that land, if it is not being built on and if a fair market value is paid to the owner. MONTGOMERY: Six amendments to the county charter will be off the ballot. Questions A through D are proposed by the Montgomery County Council. Questions E and F were part on the ballot by citizens' petitions. cA charter amendment becomes effective 30 days after the election if a majority cast votes "for" the amendment. In each case, a vote "against" the amendment would retain the current wording of the charter.
Question A is a proposal to make changes in the merit system. The county executive would be given the authority to writer personal regultions, currently a function that the executive shares with the Personnel Board. The County Council would be empowered to pass laws affecting retirment without the recommendation of the personnel Board. The personnel Board would become the Merit System Protection Board and would act as a watchdog of the merit system.
Proponents say the amendment would modernize the charter's personnel provisions by clarifying functions among the County Executive, the County Council and the Personnel Board. They say it would strengthen the executive's responsibility to implement policy and increase the watchdog function of the board. Opponents say that changes made in the merit system law in 1978 defining council and personnel board responsibilities should be given more time to work before making further changes. They also argue that this amendment gives too much authority to the executive.
Question B is a amendment affecting the price above which competitive bidding for county purchases or cntracts is required. The Charter currently requires competitive bidding for purchases or contracts of $3,000 or more. The amendment would eliminate the $3,000 figure and give the County Council the authority to pass legislation setting the dollar amount.
Propoenents say the $3,000 figure was put in the Charter in 1968 and is no longer realistic. They say that by not specifying a dollar amount in the Charter, County Council officials will have the flexibility to keep current with administrative and inflationary changes.
Opponents say that entirely removing limits is unwise and could lead to needless purchases and favoritism.
Question C concerns the selection of County Council legislative days. A vote "for" Question C would amend the charter so that the County Council's regular legislative sessions would be on the first and third Tuesday of every month, instead of the first three Tuesdays of every month. The Council would select the other 21 legislative days for the total of 45 allowed by the Maryland state constitution.
Proponents say the change would preserve the tradition of Tuesday Council meetings while giving the Council leeway in choosing legislative days to accomodate holidays, vacation snow and its workload. Opponents say that allowing the Council to select the additional legislative days will discourage the public from attending sessions to follow legislation.
Question D would increase the number of votes from 4 to 5 needed on the 7-member County Council to override a County Executive disapproval or reduction of any budget item. However, 4 votes will continue to be sufficient in the case of budgets of the Council, the National-Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Fire Commission, the Fire Departments, the Housing Opportunities Commission and Montgomery College. (The school budget is subject to different procedure set by state law.)
Proponents say that the amendment would give the county executive the same line item budget veto power that virtually all state and local executives in the country have. They say that since the Council needs 5 votes to override a legislative matter, the same number of votes should be required to override a budget item. Supporters of the amendment say the County Executive should have at least as strong a role in the fiscal affairs of the county as he has in the legislative affairs. Opponents say the amendment would take important powers away from the Council.
Question E was put on the ballot by citizen petition. It would add a new section to the county from seeking permits or spending money to bury or trench sewgage sludge on land zoned residential.
Question F would require the County Council to enact a law to give Montgomery County police officers collective bargaining power with binding arbitration. It would also prohibit strikes or work stoppages by police officers.