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County Council addresses changes for At-Large members

UPPER MARLBORO — On Tuesday, July 24, the County Council voted to amend its standing committees to accommodate the new At-Large council members who will be coming in after the November election.

The restructuring of the council’s Rules of Procedure comes with the imminent expansion of the legislative body from nine members to 11.

The County Council At-Large position was chosen for creation after the 2016 election and those two members will preside over not just one district, but the entire county. Calvin Hawkins and Mel Franklin, both Democrats, and Republican Felicia Folarin are up for the position.

“We have four standing committees currently,” said County Council Chair Dannielle Glaros. “As part of the At-Large members coming in, we decided on a new structure on the last day of our session before the recess.”

The County Council currently contains four standing committees: Health, Education and Human Services, Planning, Zoning and Economic Development, Public Safety and Fiscal Management, Transportation, Housing and Environment, as well as Rules and General Assembly.

Four council members are assigned to each committee, and they meet year-round.

The role of these committees in the legislative process is to consider bills assigned to each committee and make recommendations on changes to them and whether they should become a law or not. Also, through these committees, the council conducts other essential duties such as the budget review and adoption process as well as overseeing the budget assigned to different departments and agencies.

After the vote, there are now the five standing committees as well as General Assembly. They were arranged into Education and Workforce Development, Health, Human Services and Public Safety, Planning, Housing and Economic Development, Government Operations and Fiscal Policy and Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment. The county council chair will appoint members of these committees at the beginning of their first term in office.

According to Glaros, there were not necessarily flaws in the structure of the committees, but their rearrangement served as a way for the council to reframe the way the council works for the first time in 25 years.  

“It’s less about fixing the committees and more about framing key conversations and opportunities for future work,” she said.

The committees were arranged as such to build synergies between the different departments that fit together. The council decided that education, which was previously housed within the health committee, now makes better sense to be placed with workforce development to ensure that the council is thinking not only about educating students, but also employing residents. They will be able to focus on a shared priority of college and career readiness, including oversight of Prince George’s Community College.

“One of the key priorities of the county is education reform,” said District 6 Councilman Derrick Davis. “We want to prepare all of our students to be college and career ready. The office of workforce development was put with education so we can start to see attention put on that outcome.”

In order to address the community’s quality of life issues as well as domestic violence and mental health, Health and Human Services and Public Safety are combined.

Planning, Housing and Economic Development now focuses on the county’s economic development initiatives such as housing, transportation and infrastructure. The General Assembly remains unchanged.

The fifth committee, Government Operations and Fiscal Policy focuses on improving service delivery through various county agencies. It will be similar to the Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee, but without the public safety. Responsibilities of the board of Elections and the Office of Human Resources also fall into this committee.

“We wanted to make more efficient use of the council committee structure,” said Davis. “With the addition of the At-Large members, we wanted the time, energy and the talent of the 11 members to continue to progress.”

In addition to restructuring their standing committees, the council also changed the number of members required to override an Executive Vote. In the current rules of procedure, the board needs a two-thirds vote to override an Executive Vote, and when the At-Large council members come in, the council will require eight out of 11 votes to override a decision.

The addition of the incoming At-Large council members doesn’t necessarily mean many different changes to the council’s legislative process, according to Glaros. It is more of an opportunity to look at the old structure and realize how the council can better work with the community and each other.

“The reorganization probably would have occurred without the At-Large members,” Davis said. “The County Council bears responsibility in a small part with our districts while the responsibilities of the At-Large are broader for the whole county.”

The At-Large members will help to oversee all positions within the county and articulate those positions in a more significant way.

“It’s a new opportunity as a council to have conversations on the work we’re doing and different synergies between our committees,” Glaros said.

Last modified onWednesday, 08 August 2018 15:05
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