County Council Update

Greetings! The members of the Baltimore County Council are grateful for the opportunity to update the County Bar on the activities of our County’s legislative body. Your seven member County Council serves as the independent Legislative Branch of County government. The Council meets year-round, generally in bi-monthly Legislative Sessions (held at night) and bi-monthly Work Sessions (held during the day). All proceedings are open to the public, and the Legislative Session is broadcast on BCTV (Comcast & Verizon channel 25). The Council’s Website at www.baltimorecountycouncil.org provides helpful information as well.

On Thursday May 22, 2014, Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins delivered the County Council’s Budget Message before a large audience in attendance in the Council Chamber, and announced the adoption of the $2.9 billion operating budget for FY2015. As this Council completes it term, Mrs. Bevins’ address highlighted the challenges that came with entering office in 2010 in the midst of a severe recession. In spite of the difficult economic period, this Council, in cooperation with the County Executive, pursued an aggressive course and approved such initiatives as re-organizing certain County offices and departments; discontinuing services that were either duplicative or non-essential; and bringing 21st century technology to streamline County government and provide quicker, more reliable and accessible services to citizens. Mrs. Bevins also noted that the Council acted to facilitate economic growth by approving a number of development and re-development projects in the County seat, including Towson City Center, Towson Square, and Towson Row, as well as other projects in the County, including the Metro Centre in Owings Mills — the first Transit-Oriented Development in Baltimore County, Baltimore Crossroads along White Marsh Boulevard off I-95, and Martin’s Landing in the Middle River area.

Chairwoman Bevins also detailed several public safety policy initiatives. To help prevent street crimes, the Council banned “reverse vending machines” that pay cash for cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, and passed legislation to require brick and mortar dealers in these devices to be licensed, similar to pawn shops; the Council criminalized the buying, selling, or distribution of synthetic cannabinoids and similar substances often known as “spice” or other designer drug names; regulated the hours of operation of hookah lounges to deter their operation as late-night entertainment venues; and most recently, enacted a law that requires a policy be in effect by July 1, 2015 that mandates background checks for any volunteers who interact with children in a sanctioned County recreation council event.

Mrs. Bevins signaled the Council’s support of the Executive’s long-term renovation and construction program intended to eliminate projected school overcrowding and provide air-conditioning of virtually all schools in the next 10 years. This aggressive program — known as “Schools for Our Future” — in cooperation with the Board of Education and the Superintendent, will, when combined with State funding, allocate over $1 billion for new construction, additions, renovations, air-conditioning, and maintenance of school facilities.

In concluding her address, Mrs. Bevins emphasized the fiscal discipline and soundness of County Government, and the fact that the preceding initiatives have been accomplished without tax increases, layoffs or furloughs, or any reduction in County services, and all while maintaining the County’s Triple A bond rating.

**Schedule Alert – please note that during the summer months of June, July, and August, the Council will meet for its Legislative Session only once per month on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 PM in the Council Chamber. The Council will resume its twice monthly legislative schedule in September.

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