Montgomery and Prince George's county legislators head to Annapolis next week for the opening of the 1982 legislative session, taking with them a sizable collection of local bills, some of which may become highly controversial.
Among them are bills to restrict the authority of Montgomery County's embattled public housing agency and a bill to reduce Prince George's local income tax rate. A less-publicized proposal would allow Prince George's voters to remove county Board of Education members by recall vote.
Perennial losers such as the proposed ban on uncovered truck loads in the two counties also will make their appearance when the three-month session begins Jan. 13.
Montgomery's proposed housing legislation, a series of 15 bills authored by four delegates, would alter many of the operating procedures of the county's Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC), the agency responsible for subsidized housing.
Backed by a handful of homeowners' and civic associations, the bills were drafted in the aftermath of a bitter controversy last year between community groups and the HOC. Sponsors said the measures would make the agency more responsive to communities, particularly those in which the HOC seeks to place projects. HOC officials reply that the regulations would virtually cripple the agency's ability to do its work.
The package includes measures that would require:
* Quasi-judicial public hearings at least 60 days before the approval of subsidized housing projects;
* Stringent financial disclosure requirements for commission members and their families;
* Budget review by the County Council.
County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist sug gested that the sponsors propose more flexible county legislation, however, in place of the state legislation. The delegates heeded the advice and set up a review committee to restudy the bills and report back to the delegation.
At least one sponsor, Del. Ida Ruben (D-Silver Spring), said in an interview this week that, as a result, the bills might be substantially amended or dropped.
"I do think there will be a meeting of the minds," she said. "I don't know that they'll go through in the form in which they're introduced. They're (HOC officials) sending delegates notice of their meetings and minutes and that's what we wanted. It's a more open system."
Some county officials said privately that county legislation would fail to satisfy some delegates and that the original state bills might pass.
One of the key Prince George's bills, sponsored by Del. Charles Blumenthal (D-Oxon Hill), would lower the rate of the local tax, called the "piggy-back tax" because it is keyed to the state tax. Blumenthal's measure would lower the Prince George's rate from its present 50 percent, the statewide maximum, to 45 percent. The rate in Montgomery County is now 50 percent.
Blumenthal said the move would increase revenue, attract wealthier people to the county who are presently deterred by the high rate "and give our people a break."
Though opposed by the Prince George's County Educators Association and the county executive, the bill was cosponsored by, among others, the chairman of the Prince George's delegation, Del. Robert S. Redding (D-Upper Marlboro).
As always, the Montgomery and Prince George's delegations are arriving in Annapolis with different agendas prepared in their individual ways. This year, however, in addition to the usual bi-county tussles over water and sewer problems, the two delegations face some similar political questions.
The Montgomery delegation will consider a measure to allow voters to decide whether the County Council should be elected by district. The same bill has been introduced for 12 years without success. Only this year has backing for the bill broadened enough to raise supporters' hopes for passage.
Prince George's voters adopted a similar measure in 1980, but only after a hard-fought petition referendum on what was called "Question K." This year, organizers of Question K introduced a bill to reorganize the election procedures of the county Democratic Central Committee along the same lines.
"It completes the process" of requiring local greater accountability, said cosponsor Del. Timothy F. Maloney (D-Beltsville). The bill, written by Del. Charles J. Ryan (D-Bowie), would require that all central committee members be elected from districts in which they reside. Vacancies in legislative offices would then be filled only by committee members from that area. Central commitee members are now elected to district and at-large seats, but they run countywide. The entire 24-member committee now votes on all appointments.
Other bills introduced in Montgomery County would:
* Raise the minimum age from 18 to 19 for buying beer and light wine to be consumed "off premises". The age for consuming these products "on premises" would remain 18;
* Remove Montgomery County from the wholesale and retail liquor business;
* Revoke tax benefits from clubs that discriminate against applicants for membership;
* Prohibit campaign contributions from cable television companies to candidates for public office.
Among other bills introduced in Prince George's County are:
* A handful of measures, introduced by 25th district delegates, to increase the size of the board that distributes liquor licenses from three members to five; to lift the ceiling on the number of licenses for beer and wine; to give the liquor board sole authority to decide how many licenses shall be granted; and to allow some alcohol vendors to sell liquor at certain hours on Sundays.
Del. Nathaniel Exum (D-Hyattsville), a sponsor or cosponsor of most of these bills, said the purpose was to "offer opportunities to black entrepreneurs." Exum represents the largely black 25th district, along with Sen. Tommie Broadwater Jr., owner of a bar and restaurant and a newly opened supermarket.
* Two measures by Del. Sylvania Woods Jr. (D-Hyattsville) to raise the salaries of some courtroom personnel. Woods, from the 25th district, is the son of District Court Judge Sylvania Woods.
* A handful of measures aimed at the school board, including a bill that would make school board lines correspond with newly drawn and much-criticized county council lines. Other proposals would create an Office of Law within the Board of Education to replace outside attorneys who now represent the board, bar the county from prohibiting groups from using school facilities for longterm use because the activities are religious, and allow Board of Education members to be recalled by the voters.
Bi-county measures introduced include:
* A bill to cut off funding for the Rock Run sewage plant in Montgomery County, and
* A measure to bring all the bi-county agencies, including the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Park and Planning Commission, under the purview of state ethics laws.