These Are The Ballot Questions Maryland Voters Will Decide On In November Sports betting, property taxes, county council representation: voters in Maryland will be weighing in on a variety of ballot questions this election.
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These Are The Ballot Questions Maryland Voters Will Decide On In November

These Are The Ballot Questions Maryland Voters Will Decide On In November

Maryland voters have two big questions to answer on their ballot this election, and each of the counties have their own set of ballot initiatives. Dominique Maria Bonessi/DCist/WAMU hide caption

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Dominique Maria Bonessi/DCist/WAMU

Whether you're filling out a mail-in ballot or going to vote in person — on or before Election Day — you know to choose candidates for every elected office. But the state and county ballot questions can get a bit tricky.

In years past, the ballot questions have been written in legal jargon that most people have trouble navigating, but a law passed this year by the state's General Assembly should have clarified the language — the questions are now supposed to be written so they can be understood at a sixth-grade reading level.

If the questions are still tripping you up or you just want to understand more about what your vote would mean, we're here to help. We've read through the two statewide ballot questions, four questions for Montgomery County, five questions from Prince George's County, seven for Anne Arundel County, three for Howard County, and four for Frederick County to help you make sense of them.

Statewide Questions

Question 1: The proposed amendment to Maryland's Constitution would allow the General Assembly to increase, decrease, or reallocate funds in the governor's proposed budget each year starting in 2024. Maryland is one of the only states where the legislature does not have the authority to do this; legislators currently only have the ability to subtract money, not increase or reallocate it. Proponents say this measure would provide legislators and their constituents with more power to control the budget process. Opponents say it would merely offer lawmakers a chance to direct more money to their own districts; "pork-barrel" spending, if you will.

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Question 2: The question is whether or not Marylanders would like to legalize sports betting to raise money for K-12 public education. Gambling is already legal across casinos and horse tracks in the state; this measure would add on sports betting, which is already legal in D.C. and is likely to become legal in Virginia also.

Gambling interests are pushing for sports betting to be made legal, as are prominent team owners. Earlier this year, the Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder lobbied both the Maryland and Virginia state legislators to incentivize them to legalize sport betting. If a majority of Marylanders agree by approving this ballot question, Snyder may decide to build the team's new stadium — and a sports betting facility — in the parking lot of FedEx Field in Prince George's County.

In March, the Senate voted for a sports betting bill, 47-0. Under the law, a licensee would have needed to pay a one-time application fee of up to $2.5 million and renew it annually at an additional charge. Licensees could also include horse racing tracks, casinos and other sports stadiums. According to the bill's fiscal note, it could generate up to $20 million a year — money that would go towards public education.

Montgomery County

The four ballot questions that Montgomery County residents are being asked to weigh in on are actually competing proposals on a pair of issues: property taxes and the composition of the County Council.

Question A: There's no current cap on how much property taxes can increase every year in Montgomery County, but there is a cap on how much revenue from property taxes the county can take in — and it's tied to the rate of inflation. This question would do away with the cap on revenue, and instead require that any increase to the property tax rate be approved by all nine members of the council. All members of the council support this amendment, as does the county's chamber of commerce. The chamber says the new policy would keep tax rates stable, generate tens of millions of dollars for the county, and avoid tax property tax increases.

Question B: This question also deals with property taxes — it would prohibit lawmakers from increasing the property tax beyond the rate of inflation. (Currently, any increase beyond the rate of inflation requires a unanimous council vote.)

The question was proposed by Republican Robin Ficker, a possible candidate for governor in 2022. Speaking to WAMU/DCist earlier this year, Ficker said the measure was inspired by an 8.7% property tax hike approved in 2016. "We have a group of tax-increase specialists in the county government. They're out of touch with the average citizen in Montgomery County. We are not ATMs," he said.

All members of the council, along with the county's chamber of commerce, oppose Ficker's proposal because they say it could limit the council from maintaining funding for public services, risk the county's ability to respond to emergencies, and threatens the county's AAA-bond rating — which could substantially increase borrowing costs.

Question C: This question would change the county's charter to increase the size of the council to 11 members, up from the current nine. Since the current council structure was adopted 30 years ago, the county's population has grown by 50%. The change would increase council districts to seven (up from the current five) and retain the four at-large districts. The council supported this measure 8 to 1, and County Executive Marc Elrich also backs it. They say it would increase the diversity of views on the council. The county's chamber of commerce opposes the ballot question because is says there is a lack of representation for upcounty residents.

Question D: This question is in response to Question C and offers an alternative to increasing the council's size. The change would create nine council districts instead of the current five, and eliminate the four at-large districts. Proponents say it would offer upcounty residents more representation on the council; they say the current system of having four at-large members means residents of the southern (and more densely populated) parts of the county are effectively overrepresented on the council.

But former Democratic County Executive Ike Leggett and some county Republicans say the change would "hurt the county far into the future." Elrich and all nine councilmembers also oppose this proposal, saying that the current system of having at-large councilmembers gives residents additional lawmakers they can approach. The county's charter review commission gave the proposal consideration, but did not support it.

Prince George's County

Questions A-E: All of Prince George's County's ballot questions are asking voters about borrowing money and issuing bonds for more than $178 million on public works and transportation facilities, $28.8 million on libraries, $47.5 million on public safety facilities, $133 million on county buildings, and $127.7 million on community college facilities.

Anne Arundel County

Question A: The question would give the county auditor access to all records and files pertaining to county businesses. It would also ensure the auditor could do independent investigations and audits of allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse in county government.

Question B: The referendum would give the county council authority to confirm the county executive's appointments of the county attorney, police chief, and fire chief. This would also allow the council to block the removal of the county attorney with a majority five out of seven votes.

Question C: The question would remove the limit of 1,500 hours per calendar year for hourly-rate contractual employees. According to The Capital Gazette, most of these employees work with parks and recreation where seasonal programs require a flexible workforce.

Question D: The referendum would permit the county council to increase the minimum value of purchases and contracts requiring competitive bidding to no less than $25,000 and no greater than $100,000.

Question E: The question would extend the probationary period for public safety employees from six months to the time required to complete the department's entry-level training program, plus 12 months for full-time officers in the county's police department, fire department, sheriff's office, and Department of Detention Facilities.

Question F: The referendum would change the county charter to extend the initial term for an acting chief administrative officer or acting head of any office or department from 60 days to 120 days.This would also allow the council to extend the term up to two additional six month periods rather than the current four months.

Question G: If you mark yes on this question, it would embed the county's Human Relations Commission into the county charter. According to the Gazette, it would expand the commission's power to look into claims of discrimination.

Howard County

Question A: The question would change the dates for drawing new district borders for the county council. The old dates to redraw borders were based on a September primary in Maryland; the new dates would be based on a June primary. The process to change districts remains the same: the council appoints members of a redistricting commission who make recommendations about the new districts. The council can choose to accept the recommendations or come up with its own plan.

Question B: If a majority of county residents mark yes on this question, it would shorten the time a resident has on any county board to three years, down from the current five.

Question C: One of the most significant charter amendments for the county updates the anti-discrimination language in the charter to make clear that the county prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's disability, color, national origin, immigration status, age, occupation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family status, or personal appearance. This would also make it clear that the county could not make employment decisions on the basis of religious or political opinions, associations, or race.

Frederick County

Question A: The question would require the county executive to provide any information that is requested by county councilmembers for the purpose of writing legislation, reviewing government programs, or monitoring government activities or policies.

Question B: The charter amendment would reduce the percentage of assessable property the county can pledge for debt from 5% to 3% of assessable real property, and from 15% to 9% of assessable personal property.

Question C: The amendment would require the county council to fill its vacancies by choosing one of three people put forward by a central committee of the same political party as the vacating member. If no list is submitted, the council can appoint whoever it sees fit for the job. If a vacancy isn't filled with in 45 days, the county executive can fill the vacancy. Anyone considered for the job must be interviewed by the council or executive and allow for public comment on their appointment. If a vacancy occurs within the first year of the vacating member's term, there will be a temporary replacement made, and then a special election to fill the vacancy for the rest of the term.

Question D: The question would help create a process to fill the vacancy of a county executive. It would give the county council the authority to choose one of three people of a list put forward by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating executive. If no one is put forward, the council has the authority to select someone who they deem fit for the job. If the vacancy isn't filled within 45 days, the council would have to appoint the county's chief administrative officer. Like the county council vacancies, candidates for the position must be interviewed and the council needs to allow time for public comment. If the vacancy occurs within the first year of the vacating executive's term, there will be a temporary replacement made, and then a special election to fill the vacancy for the rest of the term.

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