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November 4, 2002

But Wait, There Are Other Questions On The Ballot!

Al Duke

In addition to the Code Home Rule question on the general election ballot, there are three other questions about proposed amendments to the Maryland Constitution that appear on the November 5 ballot.

The first question is about expanding the powers of the District Court commissioners to allow them to issue civil interim peace orders and protective orders when the District Court is not open. Currently District Court commissioners can issue arrest warrants and set terms for pre-trial release prior to a hearing in a criminal case.

Under the stateís domestic violence law, an eligible person may seek relief from abuse by petitioning the District or Circuit Court. If the court finds that abuse has occurred, it may issue a protective order to cease the abuse and to stay away from the petitioner (among other remedies). A person not otherwise eligible for relief may also file a petition with the District Court, and if the court agrees, the court may then issue a peace order that may have similar conditions.

These orders are only issued during business hours and are issued by a judge. The proposed amendment to the Maryland Constitution, which passed the House Of Delegates by a vote of 138-0 and the Senate by 46-0, would allow people to obtain interim protective orders when the courts are closed, which would then be reviewed when the courts open for business.

This one is a no-brainer. Vote FOR this question.

The second proposed amendment to Marylandís Constitution passed the House by 116-14 and the Senate by 46-0.

Currently, the Constitution prohibits the use of the emergency legislation method for creating or abolishing an office, or changing the salary, terms, or duties of any office. This method permits a bill that deals with public health and safety to become effective prior to June 1, which is the standard effective date of new legislation. This proposal would end this prohibition.

While there was some opposition to this proposal in the General Assembly, I feel that for matters of public health and safety, considering the current state of affairs, this ability to create or modify the duties of an office may be needed in the future. Vote FOR this question.

Question number 3 deals with a Constitutional amendment that pertains to Montgomery County only. This proposal passed the House by 128-4 and the Senate by 46-0.

Essentially, this proposal permits the Montgomery County Council to appoint a licensed and certified real estate appraiser to estimate the fair market value of property that is subject to taking under eminent domain. Currently the Constitution permits the County Council to appoint a licensed real estate broker to estimate fair market value. This proposal allows the Council to appoint either a licensed broker or a licensed and certified appraiser.

What the heck, make it a hat trick. Vote FOR this one too.

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