The Harford County Council is expected to introduce a pair of bills Tuesday night that would repeal one unpopular local tax and create another for which some have long pined. Also, a new security policy, which would prevent constituents from approaching or talking to members of the county council after a meeting, is expected to be discussed.
The agenda for the Tuesday, Dec. 9 session, which begins at 7:30 p.m., includes the introduction of Bill 14-035, which would create a new Hotel Occupancy Tax, and Bill 14-036, which would repeal the Stormwater Remediation Fees – better known derisively as the “rain tax.”
A Harford County hotel tax has been discussed on and off for years. Harford is famously the only remaining county in Maryland that does not impose a lodging surcharge on visits to local hotels/motels. The purpose of such a tax would be to collect a fee from those just passing through the county, yet who use roads and other public utilities and facilities while here. At several points in the last decade, the Maryland General Assembly has come close to approving a hotel tax for Harford, but some stalwart members of the local delegation were always able to stave it off. Recent attempts at passing a lodging surcharge would have allocated a percentage of the fee to the local tourism industry.
Six years ago, then-State Sen. Barry Glassman himself was in a position to finally force movement on the hotel tax, but told The Dagger:
“With the state and local economy going in the tank, I think we should not be increasing any more taxes or adding cost to small business.”
Also Tuesday night, Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky is expected to discuss new security procedures and protocols, which could dramatically impact the way constituents interact with their representatives at the public meetings.
According to Sherrie Johnson, the former public information officer for Harford County government, who started a new position a week ago as Director of Communications for the Harford County Council, constituents and members of the media will no longer be permitted to directly address or contact council members after legislative sessions. Instead, Johnson has asked for inquiries and contact with the council members, including questions from journalists, to be made through her.
It has long been customary for council members to remain in the chambers after the public meeting adjourns to speak with constituents and media.
“No, constituents are not allowed to approach Council members after meetings. This is part of new security procedures that will be put in place for the County Council meetings,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail to The Dagger Monday night.
The full Harford County Council agenda:
LEGISLATIVE SESSION DAY 14-029
1. CALL TO ORDER
2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
3. OPENING PRAYER – Council Member Perrone
4. PRESENTATION OF PROCLAMATIONS
5. CITIZEN INPUT
6. CONSIDERATION OF PETITIONS AND APPLICATIONS
7. SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
8. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
a. LSD 14-028 (December 2, 2014)
9. INTRODUCTION AND CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTIONS
a. Resolution 029-14 (Performance and Operational Audits FY2015)
10. INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
a. Bill 14-035 (Creation – Hotel Occupancy Tax)
b. Bill 14-036 (Repeal – Stormwater Remediation Fees)
11. INTRODUCTION AND CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS
12. CALL FOR FINAL READING OF BILLS
13. ENROLLMENT OF BILLS
14. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
15. NEW BUSINESS
a. Council Appointments
i. Council Attorney – Charlie Kearney
ii. Office on Mental Health Core Service Agency – O’Melia Vanessa James
iii. Appointments to Boards and Commissions
16. BUSINESS FROM THE PRESIDENT
17. BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS
18. COMMENTS FROM ATTENDING CITIZENS