County, del­e­ga­tion bump heads on garbage haul­ing bill

Will give county abil­ity to take on waste col­lec­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

In the near fu­ture, the Charles County Govern­ment could be tak­ing over trash col­lec­tion ser­vices for busi­nesses and res­i­dents through­out the county. But they will not be able to do it with­out hold­ing a pub­lic hear­ing first.

The Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly passed House Bill 1300, which re­quires the county to hold a pub­lic hear­ing be­fore “dis­plac­ing” any private per­son or agency who is con­trac­tu­ally en­abled to col­lect trash from dif­fer­ent ar­eas around the county.

And although the leg­is­la­tion was passed in both the House and the Se­nate, the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers re­quested be­ing able to make new amend­ments to the bill that ad­dress con­cerns the com­mis­sion­ers say they have.

The com­mis­sion­ers pre­vi­ously voted unan­i­mously to take up the mea­sure. How­ever, County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said the county did not re-

al­ize that the bill could end up cost­ing the county more money down the line as they pro­vide ser­vices to cit­i­zens and buy out private com­pa­nies cur­rently in place. ”We had a cou­ple of con­cerns about that. There was no fis­cal note on that that gave us any amount of money that it could cost the county,” Mur­phy said. And the bill is a man­date, he said, which means the county has to op­er­ate un­der this law. Ex­pen­di­tures may be in­creased by a “sig­nif­i­cant amount” over time, Mur­phy said, which could do more harm than good for the fu­ture of the county govern­ment. In an at­tempt to make changes to the bill, Mur­phy crafted a let­ter un­der his sig­na­ture ap­proved by Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Amanda Ste­wart (D) and Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) re­quest­ing more time to work on the leg­is­la­tion. Mur­phy said he sent out an email to all com­mis­sion­ers re­quest­ing their ap­proval for the let­ter, but did not get re­sponses back from Com­mis­sion­ers Debra Davis (D) and Bobby Rucci (D).

But Rucci said the email was sent out­side of nor­mal op­er­at­ing hours for the county govern­ment and he was un­able to re­spond. Davis and Rucci sent their own let­ter to the state no­ti­fy­ing of­fi­cials of their sup­port for the orig­i­nal unan­i­mous de­ci­sion be­hind the bill from the com­mis­sion­ers.

“I didn’t have my com­puter with me. If some­thing like that goes out, we need to be called,” Rucci said. “And I think that item needs a pub­lic hear­ing be­cause stake­hold­ers weren’t no­ti­fied ei­ther.”

The law was voted on by the gen­eral assem­bly and is in statute now. Charles County Del­e­ga­tion Chair­woman Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) said the com­mis­sion­ers were ask­ing to make changes at the last minute, which would have dis­rupted the process of the leg­is­la­tion.

Noth­ing changed with the bill, Pat­ter­son said, and the com­mis­sion­ers al­ready pre­vi­ously made a mo­tion of sup­port for the leg­is­la­tion.

“I be­lieve right should pre­vail. This was a good bill. It was one that had been worked on, es­tab­lished and de­vel­oped. No one op­posed it. There was a vote of 5-0 to sup­port this,” Pat­ter­son said. “Pulling it would mean killing it.”

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) or­ga­nized a meet­ing be­tween the county and trash hauler rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Pat­ter­son said. But the amend­ments sug­gested by the county were “mi­nus­cule.”

Those last minute changes weren’t sig­nif­i­cant enough, Pat­ter­son said. Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) agreed.

“The is­sue be­comes process,” Jame­son said. “We’ve al­ways had a very good process. We meet in the late fall with the com­mis­sion­ers, we do a joint pub­lic hear­ing, we do work­shops to make sure we un­der­stand ex­actly what we want to change.”

There were com­plaints that the bill was filed late, Jame­son said, but that is not the case. The bill was filed in Jan­uary, she said, but re­ceived a late num­ber.

The prob­lem is, she said, changes were made af­ter the work­shops were done on the bill. The pur­pose of the work­shops, she said, is to de­velop two to three sen­tences for each stip­u­la­tion in the bill.

“You know the things you’re go­ing to need and you’re only go­ing to have a cou­ple of days to get them ready,” Jame­son said. “Some­times you get snagged. But the most im­por­tant thing is that at the be­gin­ning of the process, the com­mis­sion­ers know what bills they want to move for­ward.”

De­spite the ini­tial vote, Ste­wart said she was dis­ap­pointed that the bill never came for­ward with a fis­cal note. The com­mis­sion­ers were not no­ti­fied of what the fis­cal im­pact of the leg­is­la­tion could be, she said. That is why, she said, they made the de­ci­sion to try to make changes.

“From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, it would help pro­tect lo­cal busi­nesses. But lets fast for­ward,” Ste­wart said. “We want to make sure that on both sides ev­ery­one is clear and knowl­edgable of if you make these de­ci­sions these are go­ing to be the con­se­quences.”

Ul­ti­mately, Mid­dle­ton said, the com­mis­sion­ers did not have a “well thought out” bill. And it gath­ered mo­men­tum among the state del­e­ga­tion and moved for­ward.

“It’s in statute now,” Mid­dle­ton said. “It doesn’t pre­vent them in the fu­ture from com­ing back and chang­ing it. But they have to change the law to do it.”

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