County, delegation bump heads on garbage hauling bill
Will give county ability to take on waste collection
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.”