Special Provisions of the Legislative Process

Administrative Appointments
Appointments to the position of Chief Administrative Officer, department head, board or commission member and any executive director of a board must go to public hearing not less than 10 working days after their submission to the Council. If the Council fails to act to confirm or reject within 30 days of submission, the individual is considered confirmed to the post. All nominations must be confirmed by majority vote of the full Council. Appointments to head a County department or to the position of Chief Administrative Officer may be rejected by a two-thirds majority of the full Council. Nominees to boards or commissions and executive directors thereof may be rejected on majority vote of the full Council.

Reorganizations of Executive Branch
An Executive Order creating a new division or department or reorganizing County government in another fashion becomes law within 60 days if not rejected by a majority vote of the full Council. These Executive Orders are assigned Council bill numbers and are handled administratively like other legislation except that a public hearing is not required.

Authority to Legislate
Upon the adoption of the Charter, Prince George's County was granted the power, pursuant to the express powers enumerated in the Express Powers Act, Article25A of the Annotated Code of Maryland, to pass any law that does not conflict with the Constitution or the Public General Laws of the State of Maryland. This provision applies to the Charter itself, as well as to any act passed by the County Council.

A public general law is an act of the General Assembly applicable to two or more counties of the State. A public local law is a law applicable to one County only.

Meaning of Police Powers
Article 25A of the Annotated Code includes a provision known as a “general welfare clause” which the courts have interpreted as the authorization to exercise the police power. Outside of the taxing power and the condemnation power, most legal writers conclude that the powers of the Legislature to pass laws necessary for the general health, welfare and safety is exercised under the police power. The laws passed by the County Council will generally be predicated upon an express power contained in Article 25A, including the “general welfare clause”; however, it should be pointed out that there are some public general laws passed by the State Legislature that give counties specific powers which may exceed the authority of the County under the Charter powers. The prime example is the Regional District Act which grants final zoning power and authority to the County Councils of Prince George's and Montgomery Counties.

Limits on Local Legislation
The Council, in adopting any legislation, is governed by whatever limitations are expressed in authorizing legislation. State law and Federal law are reviewed to be certain there is no conflict. This is generally a legal review by the Office of Law or Legislative Officer. The Court has expressed it in terms “that the County cannot permit that which the State prohibits or prohibit that which the State permits.” Where the State establishes minimum standards, generally it is not inconsistent for the County to establish more stringent standards if the County has authority to act.

Some State acts have what are known as preemption provisions, which expressly exclude the County from passing any laws on the subject. The County may not legislate concerning alcoholic liquors (Art. 25A, Sec. 5) or levy an occupational tax for transacting any insurance business (Art. 48A, Sec. 10). Very few public general laws, however, have preemption provisions. Implied preemption applies when the County is precluded from legislating in a field which has been comprehensively regulated by the State or Federal governments.

Local Legislation Prior to Charter
Prior to adoption of the Charter, public local laws were enacted by the State Legislature for the County. These laws continue in effect unless amended or repealed and are included in the County Code. The County has the power to amend these laws. It should be pointed out that the General Assembly enacts public local laws in some areas, such as taxation, where Charter counties do not have express powers.

Bi-County Acts
Two Maryland Acts have important relevance to Prince George's and Montgomery Counties. These acts are the Washington Suburban Sanitary District Law codified as Art. 20 of the Annotated Code of Maryland and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Act and Regional District Act codified as Art. 28. In 1973 the Court of Appeals held that the M-NCPPC Act was a public general law, not a public local law, and therefore superseded the many conflicting provisions in the County Charter (Art. VII) relating to planning and zoning. The grant of zoning power to charter counties does not apply to those portions of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties within the Maryland-Washington Regional District.