The Prince George’s County Council and county executive may face new restrictions on developer campaign contributions if a bill headed for the full House delegation is approved Friday.
The bill would bar council members from voting on a development proposal if the council member is on a political slate that receives developer contributions. The county executive also would be barred from receiving developer contributions while a development application is pending. Council members are already barred by law from receiving developer contributions directly. But in recent years, many have received developer contributions because they were members of slates that took the contributions.
The bill was approved 5 to 0 by the county affairs committee. Del. Carolyn J.B. Howard (D-Prince George’s) was absent. The measure is identical to the bill that the Senate delegation approved this month, as well as to a proposal originally offered by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who later agreed to a less restrictive compromise sought by the council.
The Senate delegation rebuffed the compromise this month, and the House committee followed suit Wednesday. The current bill that the House delegation will take up Friday was introduced by State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). He has been lobbying vigorously for its passage.
“This now puts limits in Prince George’s County that do not exist in any other county in the state,” said Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Prince George’s), chairman of the House delegation’s county affairs committee. “We recognize that it is important to do that to regain the confidence of our citizens, the entire region and the business community,” he said.
The push for ethics legislation in the county comes as residents and businesses have complained that they have had to “pay to play” to get contracts and other business in the county.
A federal criminal investigation also has led to charges against former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife, County Council member Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville) in connection with development deals.
Prince George’s council Chairman Ingrid Turner (D-Bowie) and vice chairman Eric Olson (D-College Park) declined requests Wednesday to discuss the House committee’s vote or the council’s next steps. In a written statement, they said they hoped that their measure, which would allow them to accept developer donations through slates as long as the development was not in their council district, would prevail.