February 7, 2012

Briefs: Property tax caps override; redistricting change; third bay bridge

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The flood of 161 bills introduced in the Senate Monday night included measures to allow counties to exceed property tax caps to fund education, curb gerrymandering of congressional districts and do an environmental impact study for a third bay bridge.

There was also legislation to allow unions for adjunct faculty and graduate students at state universities.

TAX CAPS: Sen. Rich Madaleno, D-Montgomery, introduced a measure (SB740)
that authorizes the county council of a charter county that has a property tax revenue or rate limitation to set a property tax rate higher or to collect more property tax revenues than authorized under the county charter for the sole purpose of funding local schools.

A charter county must appropriate all property tax revenues collected resulting from the increased rate to the county board of education.

Madaleno said that funding of education is a constitutional requirement in Maryland, and so that overrides any tax caps approved by local voters. Five counties have some kind of tax cap: Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Talbot and Wicomico. The same bill introduced by Madaleno last year failed to make it out of committee.

CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, is sponsoring a state constitutional amendment that would apply the same standards for congressional districts that are used for legislative districts.

Brinkley’s bill says a congressional district “shall consist of adjoining territory, be compact in form and ensure that due regard is given to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.”

Brinkley objected to the way Frederick and Carroll counties, which he represents, were split last fall by the governor’s redistricting plan. He said when voters “see gerrymandering, they are repulsed by it.”

Brinkley’s bill has nine co-sponsors, including two Democrats, James Brochin of Baltimore County and Anthony Muse of Prince George’s. Muse was the only Democrat to vote against the governor’s congressional redistricting plan.

Brochin, whose Towson district was redrawn to include more Republican voters, already introduced  a bill and a constitutional amendment  to ban partisan gerrymandering and other political factors, such as where incumbents live, from consideration in legislative redistricting.

BAY BRIDGE: Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Upper Shore, has introduced the perennial bill (SB805) to do an environmental impact study for a third Chesapeake Bay bridge, either parallel to the current spans, or somewhere else “determined to be environmentally and economically feasible.”

UNIVERSITY UNIONS: Sen. Jamie Raskin, R-Montgomery, and 15 co-sponsors have introduced a bill (SB859) to allow faculty, adjunct instructors and graduate fellows at state colleges and universities to unionize.

–Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com