- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A new committee formally will consider a shift to a charter form of county government, the Charles County commissioners decided Tuesday.
A nine-member “charter board” will be assembled to consider abandoning code home rule in favor of a charter, a kind of county constitution that would afford more flexibility in the structure of local government. Other Maryland counties with charters have instituted a county council with an independent executive, although other systems are possible.
The board, if it decides a charter is desirable, will have 18 months from its creation to draft one, which would then be approved or rejected by voters at a referendum, said County Attorney Barbara L. Holtz.
On Jan. 8, Holtz will give the commissioners a presentation on possible barriers to charter government in existing county law, the commissioners decided unanimously.
The public is in control of the charter process, said Charles County Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D).
“I guess the only comment I would make [is that] on several occasions recently, the issue has come up in conversation amongst residents. I think what needs to be made clear to residents is this is an absolutely complete public process. In no way is it an opportunity for this board or any elected board to force the issue,” he said.
Charter and code home rule, which both give county government some autonomy from the Maryland General Assembly, each has advantages and disadvantages, professor Jeanne E. Bilanin has explained in earlier presentations in the county.
A charter could increase the county’s independence from state lawmakers, but neither system is inherently superior, said Bilanin, associate director of the Institute for Governmental Service and Research at the University of Maryland.