Laws governing local ballot measures in Maryland
This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Maryland. It explains:
- Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
- How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
Types of local government
Local government in Maryland consists of 24 counties (this includes the city of Baltimore which is considered a "county equivalent") and 157 incorporated municipalities (cities and towns that have been incorporated with a charter). In addition there are 167 special districts.
Counties may be organized and governed by:
- County commissioners, of which there are 8. They are Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, St. Mary's, Somerset, and Washington.
- Code home rule, of which there are 6. They are Allegany (1974), Caroline (1984), Charles (2002), Kent (1970), Queen Anne's (1990), and Worcester (1976).
- Charter, of which there are 9. They are Anne Arundel (1964), Baltimore (1956), Dorchester (2002), Harford (1972), Howard (1968), Montgomery (1948), Prince George's (1970), Talbot (1973), and Wicomico (1964).
Cities and towns are treated as a single class by state statutes, with the exception of Baltimore which has laws specific to it. Cities and towns gain their legal status by incorporation through a charter. All local services in unincorporated areas are provided directly by the county.
Under Maryland law, all new bonding for school districts and extensions to tax levies must be approved by County Board of Commissioners that oversees the county where the district is located. Maryland, Nevada, and South Carolina are the three states that structure their school districts at the county level rather than individual municipalities. The only part of the state that requires bond elections is Baltimore County. Only the County Executive of Baltimore County can call for a bond election. Maryland is one of nine states, along with the District of Columbia, that restrict school bond and tax elections.
Initiative process availability
- All 9 charter counties have a mandated initiative process for charter amendments.
- All 157 cities and towns have a mandated initiative process for charter amendments. State laws make no mention of initiative for ordinances, and cities do not appear to have authority to grant this power on their own.
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|Laws Governing Ballot Measures|
Municipal home rule powers and municipal charter amendment by initiative are granted in Maryland Constitution, Article XI-E. Art. XI-E, Sec. 4 states: "The adoption of a new charter, the amendment of any charter or local laws, or the repeal of any part of a charter or local laws shall be proposed either by a resolution of the legislative body of any such municipal corporation or by a petition containing the signatures of at least five per cent of the registered voters of a municipal corporation and filed with the legislative body of said municipal corporation. The General Assembly shall amplify the provisions of this section by general law in any manner not inconsistent with this Article."
The city of Baltimore and charter county charter amendment by initiative are granted by Maryland Constitution, Article XI-A, Section 5. "Amendments to any charter adopted by the City of Baltimore or by any County of this State under the provisions of this Article may be proposed by a resolution of the Mayor of Baltimore and the City Council of the City of Baltimore, or the Council of the County, or by a petition signed by not less than 20% of the registered voters of the City or County, provided, however, that in any case 10,000 signatures shall be sufficient to complete a petition. A petition shall be filed with the Mayor of Baltimore or the President of the County Council. An amendment so proposed shall be submitted to the voters of the City or County at the next general or congressional election occurring after the passage of the resolution or the filing of the petition. If at the election the majority of the votes cast for and against the amendment shall be in favor thereof, the amendment shall be adopted and become a part of the charter of the City or County from and after the thirtieth day after said election. The amendments shall be published by the Mayor of Baltimore or President of the County Council once a week for five successive weeks prior to the election in at least one newspaper published in said City or County."
The process for municipal charter amendment by initiative is prescribed in Maryland Code Article 23A, Sections 11 to 18 (most requirements are found in Section 14).
|A guide to local ballot initiatives|
Initiative process features in incorporated municipalities
The initiative process features for charter amendment in incorporated municipalities can be found in the Maryland Constitution, Article XI-E and the Maryland Code, Article 23A, Sections 11 to 18.
|Local I&R Laws in the 50 States|
|Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with |
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Initiative process in the top 10 most populated cities
|List of Most Populated Cities in Maryland|
|City||Population||City Type||Next election|
|College Park||30,587||Charter||Special Election|
The top 10 most populated cities are subject to the state-set initiative process for charter amendments detailed above.
- Ballotpedia Research Document, Local Initiative in Maryland
- Maryland Municipal League
- Department of Legislative Services, Compilation of Municipal Charters
- ↑ The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- ↑ Maryland State Archives, Maryland Manual On-Line, Maryland at a Glance, Government
- ↑ Maryland Municipal League, Municipal Incorporation
- ↑ Ballotpedia: Types and #'s of local government by state
- ↑ US Census Bureau "City and Town Totals: Vintage 2011 (Population figures as of 2011 Census estimates)
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 US Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Maryland: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011