Delegates from Prince George's County this week voted to support a bill that would place the county's Board of License commissioners under the authority of Maryland's Ethics Commission. The board is being investigated by the state's attorney's office in Prince George's, after recent allegations of conflict of interest by one of its members and that one of its employes accepted money from a license applicant.
The bill is expected to go to the House of Delegates in the next few weeks where, according to Del. Charles S. Blumenthal (D-Oxon Hill), members will support it "like they'd support motherhood." Blumenthal, chairman of the delegation's law enforcement committee, said he now plans to write a bill that would impose "a lot of important standards, under which (license commissioners) could be prosecuted."
Other bills considered by delegation committees this week included several relating to the county Board of Education. One of them, introduced by Del. William R. McCaffrey (D-Brandywine), would require the school board to give at least a year's notice of planned school closings and hold public hearings within five miles of the school. The Maryland Board of Education was expected to issue guidelines on school closings this week and delegates decided to delay the bill until then. If the guidelines are similar to the bill, the bill will be dropped, McCaffrey said.
Members of a delegation work committee voted against a second McCaffrey bill Tuesday afternoon. The bill would have established a system for removing school board members from office. Members objected to the bill because other elected officials were not included and because they were worried it was unconstitutional. McCaffrey himself voted against it.
"I think we have to look at the whole picture," he said. "We should cover not only the school board members, but the county executive and every other elected official we can think of."
One important local bill on the Annapolis agenda lost at least one supporter this week. The bill, sponsored by Blumenthal, would lower the rate of the county's "piggy-back tax," an income tax tied to the state's income tax.
Blumenthal's measure would reduce the amount of income tax revenue paid to the county from 50 percent of state income tax to 45 percent. Blumenthal said the lower tax would "make Prince George's more attractive and bring in a higher income base." Although the tax rate would fall, he said, revenues would increase.
But this week McCaffrey, one of the bill's eight cosponsors, said he was withdrawing his support. "I would agree (that the income tax) should go down if times were good and TRIM (which limits property tax revenues) was modified," McCaffrey said. "But I don't know if you can put it into effect right now."