Howard County Bills on Mulching and APFO Declared Invalid

Months of discussions on bills related to mulching and adequate public facilities took an unexpected turn: information from the Baltimore Sun article:

In a culmination of months of controversy and debate, the Howard County Council voted Monday night to pass an update to its adequate public facilities ordinance and a bill to regulate mulching practices in the county.

However, in a turn of events on Tuesday, the votes were declared invalid due to an error in the timing of the votes, according to council spokesman Eric Solomon.

The county’s charter requires bills introduced to the council to be voted on within 65 days, or they automatically fail. Bills are allowed two 30-day extensions; both the APFO bills and the mulching bill used their extensions, requiring a vote by the council.

The issue stems from the fact that the 125th day since the bills’ introductions was Sunday, Nov. 5, rather than Monday, Nov. 6, meaning that the votes were void as the bills had expired. The county’s legislative schedule is not based on calendar days, and due to the calendar alignment of July through October of this year, the council’s standard legislative cycle exceeded the charter limit by one day, according to a statement from the council office.

Council members are currently consulting the Office of Law to determine the next appropriate steps.

This most recent problem could possibly drag out an already months-long process to work through issues related to the legislative items, both of which passed on Monday night with significant amendments.

You can read the full article here:  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-council-meeting-1109-story.html

I thought it would be interesting to see what recent statements were made online from our current Howard County Council members…here is what I found: (Note – most online statements below were posted prior to the Baltimore Sun article).

Jon Weinstein

I have received questions regarding the validity of last night’s votes on Mulch and Compost (CB60), and APFO (CB61 and CB62) based on a potential technical issue with the timing of the vote. We are awaiting a final determination from the County’s Office of Law as to whether or not the votes were valid. I appreciate your patience at this time as the Council and Office of Law work to address this issue.

Calvin Ball

“Due to a Howard County Charter provision that limits the potential life of a bill to a maximum of 125 days, the County Council’s votes last night on Council Bills 60-, 61-, and 62-2017 were not valid. Within the limits of this Charter provision, the Council’s schedule normally allows legislation to be considered in its month of introduction, tabled for a second month, and then extended for up to two additional months while following the Council’s standard legislative cycle. However, the Council’s legislative cycle is not based on calendar days, and given the calendar alignment of July through October, 2017, the Council’s standard legislative cycle actually exceeded the Charter limit by one day. Unfortunately, this detail was not realized until after Council Bills 60-, 61-, and 62-2017 had expired. Council Members are currently consulting with the County’s Office of Law and evaluating potential next steps.”
I sincerely apologize to our community for the confusion, frustration and anxiety this has caused, which is understandable. I’m hopeful that we can work with our Office of Law to resolve this oversight very quickly.

Jen Terrasa (via public post on her personal Facebook account).

I know that there has been information circulating about some of last night’s vote on APFO possibly being invalid due to timing. I want you to know that I understand and share your concern, but I hope that you will remain patient as we await a formal ruling from the County’s Office of Law. If it turns out that the vote was not valid, please be assured that I will do everything I can to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

I am happy to see that the three statements above all including looking into next steps and resolving this issue quickly (or as soon as possible).

I did not find anything posted on this topic from Mary Kay Sigaty or Greg Fox.

A few candidates for Howard County Council made statements over that last 12 hours…You can go check out their Facebook pages to read those statements.

One group that is happy about all of this…the Maryland Building Industry Association. They sent out this emails / social media blast on the 6th:

Their latest news blast yesterday did not have any additional information or statements…but I will keep an eye out to see what they post next. You can bet they will continue to oppose the changes to APFO.

I guess we wait to see what happens next…

Scott E

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