Lawmakers to take aim at state taxes

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/27/2013
State lawmakers from Frederick County are laying the groundwork for an all-out attack on taxes during the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly. Sen. David Brinkley is looking to reduce the corporate income tax rate and adjust the Maryland estate tax. Delegate Michael Hough wants to require a supermajority vote for any tax increases. And Delegate Kathy Afzali is looking to ease the estate tax burden on family businesses. Several of these proposals have fizzled in past legislative sessions, but Brinkley, R-District 4, said bringing them back will continue the discussion about tax relief. “At least they can be conversation starters,” he said. The process of crafting legislation for the year is already underway. Earlier this month, state senators and delegates had to decide if they wanted to draft any bills to be pre-filed before the Jan. 8 start of session.

Afzali turns down alternate seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/17/2013
Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali on Friday rejected an invitation to serve as an alternate member on the county task force discussing local growth issues. She had previously volunteered to join the work group, but Sen. David Brinkley asked Delegate Galen Clagett to take a seat on the panel instead. Brinkley questioned Afzali's impartiality on the issue of creating a transfer tax, an idea she has said she opposes. Clagett, D-District 3A, is unable to attend Tuesday's kickoff meeting of the task force, so Brinkley on Friday sent Afzali an email asking her to represent the Frederick County legislative delegation for that day. But for Afzali, R-4A, serving as an alternate wasn't going to cut it. However, she said she will attend all task force meetings as a member of the audience. "Delegate Clagett doesn't have the time to devote to this very important topic," Afzali said. "I do have the time because I will be there. So maybe it's just time to appoint me the representative on the task force for the delegation."

Unbalanced task force

Frederick News Post
Steve McKay
11/17/2013
Since Commissioners President Blaine Young announced his intent to rid the county of the dreaded impact fees, I have been trying to pay close attention to this subject. After all, those dreaded impact fees are an important source of funds to mitigate all of the massive infrastructure challenges being created by the county’s drive to develop, particularly here in south county. So it was with some concern that I read The News-Post’s article of Nov. 12 headlined “Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force.” In all my efforts fighting against the Monrovia development, I can count on one hand the politicians that have raised their voices in our support, and Delegate Kathy Afzali is one of them. She has been a vocal supporter in our fight against Monrovia Town Center, and against excessive growth in this part of the county. She and Delegate Michael Hough came out to our meeting in Urbana, and we had a very constructive exchange. She even stood up and testified against the development at the planning commission hearing. She is doing her job and representing her constituents — us! So I was dismayed at Sen. David Brinkley’s comments in the paper that day. First, I found the comments very unprofessional, considering that he was speaking about a fellow legislator from the same district and party. Beyond that, however, I was dismayed that he would choose Delegate Galen Clagett, someone so clearly aligned with the development community, to participate on this task force, which is already so clearly biased toward the developers. Make no mistake, this task force is going to recommend ways to make the developers pay less for the impacts that new developments have on our roads and schools. Who will make up the difference? You and me, the taxpayers. Blaine Young wants to abolish the impact fee. For Monrovia Town Center, that represents 60 percent of their contribution toward new schools. When the impact fee is gone, under the terms of the Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreement they have proposed, the developer will be completely off the hook for over $20 million! Under cross-examination at the third of four days of planning commission hearings on Monrovia Town Center, the applicant’s attorney, Rand Weinberg, confirmed as much.

Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11122013
A state delegate who raised her hand to join a Frederick County growth task force was passed over for appointment after a fellow legislator questioned how “fair and open” she would be on the panel. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, argued she would bring a much-needed perspective to the growth group because her constituents in the eastern areas of the county are among those most affected by local growth issues. In a Nov. 4 letter, she asked Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4, to put her on the county-led task force. In response, Brinkley challenged Afzali’s impartiality on the question of creating a transfer tax to fund infrastructure improvements. In a Monday phone interview, he attributed Afzali’s interest in the work group to a desire for publicity. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley said. Despite Afzali’s request for the task force assignment, Brinkley offered the opening to Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, before finally naming Delegate Galen Clagett to the work group. Afzali said her goal is to represent district residents who have concerns about development in the county. Controversial development projects such as the Monrovia Town Center heavily affect her constituents, she noted. Clagett, D-District 3A, represents the city of Frederick, where building does not generate as much opposition, she said. “I’m the one who’s fielding the calls from irate citizens who are going to have the traffic jams and the noise and the safety issues from this kind of growth,” she said.

Frederick County work group to discuss impact fees, new transfer tax

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/05/2013
The unanimous decision followed discussion about eliminating the county’s impact fee and replacing it with a transfer tax levied when properties are sold. The Maryland General Assembly would have to authorize the change, so recent efforts to swap the fee with a tax fizzled without support from a majority of Frederick County’s legislators. Delegate Kathy Afzali said creating a new tax on home sales would further depress the county’s housing market. “We’re hungry for buyers,” said Afzali, R-District 4A, who has worked in real estate. “If anything, we should try to figure out how to cut costs for buyers.” But Commissioners President Blaine Young said it’s not fair to rely only on new construction to drum up funds for infrastructure improvements. Developers pay impact fees of $15,185 for each single-family detached house, $13,089 for townhouses or duplexes, and $2,845 for other residential units. The costs are typically rolled into the cost of a new home and passed on to the buyer. The fees, which brought Frederick County almost $7.2 million in fiscal 2013, are intended to fund construction of additional library and school space to serve the new communities.

County hears input on transportation priorities

Frederick News Post
Kelsi Loos
09/23/2013
County staff members and representatives from the State Highway Administration met with the commissioners last week to go over transportation priorities for Frederick County. Transportation projects tend to develop slowly, so many of the items on the county priorities list were carried over from earlier years. The overall top priority remains widening U.S. 15 between I-70 and Md. 26. However, three key changes were made possible by state funding. Planners secured construction funding for the U.S. 15, Monocacy Boulevard interchange and a streetscape project on Main Street (Md. 144) in New Market. Streetscapes generally involve improving or adding sidewalks and upgrading roadways to make them more navigable.

Choosing Young's adventure [and] Legislators get low marks from group [and] Center sale opponents organize rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/19/2013
A state environmental scorecard for 2013 was released this week, and a couple of Frederick County legislators scored zeros. Sen. David Brinkley was one of the two local lawmakers who failed to win (any) points with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2013. But Brinkley says it is important to consider how the league arrived at its evaluation about this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly. Lawmakers were penalized for opposing a gas tax increase and working to delay a requirement that certain counties create a stormwater fee. “They can call themselves about conservation, but they’re not. They’re about an agenda of increased taxation,” said Brinkley, R-District 4. While Brinkley and Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, both got the lowest possible grades from the league, some higher scorers weren’t happy with the report, either. Sen. Ron Young, who earned a 71 percent score from the group, said he thinks the organization dropped the ball this year. Young’s scores suffered because he didn’t vote on the offshore wind bill and supported the agricultural certainty bill, which gives farmers who voluntarily follow certain practices a 10-year exemption from new state and local environmental regulations. Young said he is upset that the league didn’t back his legislation to create low-interest loans for building green homes. “I would downgrade them,” said Young, D-District 3. “I think they had their heads in the sand.” Young and Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, tied for the delegation’s highest score, and the grades take a pretty sharp downturn from there. Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, received a 50-percent score; Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, got 43 percent; Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, got a 25 percent; and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, got a 20 percent.

Choosing Young’s adventure [and] Legislators get low marks from group [and] Center sale opponents organize rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/19/2013
A state environmental scorecard for 2013 was released this week, and a couple of Frederick County legislators scored zeros. Sen. David Brinkley was one of the two local lawmakers who failed to win (any) points with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2013. But Brinkley says it is important to consider how the league arrived at its evaluation about this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly. Lawmakers were penalized for opposing a gas tax increase and working to delay a requirement that certain counties create a stormwater fee. “They can call themselves about conservation, but they’re not. They’re about an agenda of increased taxation,” said Brinkley, R-District 4. While Brinkley and Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, both got the lowest possible grades from the league, some higher scorers weren’t happy with the report, either. Sen. Ron Young, who earned a 71 percent score from the group, said he thinks the organization dropped the ball this year. Young’s scores suffered because he didn’t vote on the offshore wind bill and supported the agricultural certainty bill, which gives farmers who voluntarily follow certain practices a 10-year exemption from new state and local environmental regulations. Young said he is upset that the league didn’t back his legislation to create low-interest loans for building green homes. “I would downgrade them,” said Young, D-District 3. “I think they had their heads in the sand.” Young and Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, tied for the delegation’s highest score, and the grades take a pretty sharp downturn from there. Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, received a 50-percent score; Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, got 43 percent; Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, got a 25 percent; and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, got a 20 percent.