Baltimore County, Maryland is a body corporate and politic which performs all local governmental functions within its jurisdiction. There are no incorporated towns, villages, municipalities or other political subdivisions in the County. The County has operated as a Charter County since 1957 and is governed by an elected County Executive and a seven-member County Council.
The County Council is the County elected legislative body, and it is vested with all law-making power granted by its Charter and by the General Assembly of Maryland. The seven members of the Council are respectively elected from each of seven contiguous and equally-populated Councilmanic districts. County Council members serve four year terms. Each Councilman represents approximately 107,000 County residents. The present term began December 2006.
Each member of the County Council has one vote, and a simple majority of the County Council is sufficient to pass legislation in the absence of higher voting requirements. Emergency bills require the vote of five members of the County Council, as do County Council actions to override a veto by the County Executive. The County Council elects its own Chairperson at its first regular session in each calendar year.
The County Council meets in regular legislative session every month of the year, generally on the first and third Monday of each month. The Council meets as a committee of the whole on the Tuesday prior to each regular legislative session to discuss the legislative agenda for that session. Other regular and special sessions and other meetings of the County Council are held as needed. All regular sessions of the County Council are held in Towson and are open to the public.
As the final fiscal authority of Baltimore County, the County Council is responsible for adopting an annual balanced budget capable of financing the operations of county government for the fiscal year. The budget must be adopted on or before June 1 in each year; the budget bill is not subject to veto by the County Executive. The general fund operating budget for fiscal year 2011 totals $1.6 billion; nearly half of this amount is appropriated to the Department of Education to fund the County's public school system.
A bill is introduced by the County Council. Council members sponsor their own bills. The Chairman of the County Council sponsors bills that the County Executive requests to have introduced. A bill not passed within 40 days after its introduction automatically fails.
After the introduction of a bill, notice is published at least once on each of two consecutive weeks in The Jeffersonian newspaper. Copies of the bill are available for inspection at the County Council office and at each branch of the public library.
The County Council meets in regular legislative session every month of the year, generally on the first and third Monday of each month. On the Tuesday prior to a scheduled legislative session, the County Council conducts a work session to discuss any bills that are scheduled for a vote at that legislative session. All work sessions and legislative sessions of the County Council are held in Towson and are open to the public.
In order for a bill to be passed, the affirmative vote of at least four Council members is required. Upon passage of a bill, the County Council must present the bill to the County Executive within two calendar days for his signature. The County Executive has 10 days after presentation of the bill to:
- Approve the bill by signing it and returning it to the County Council;
- Return the bill unsigned to the County Council, in which case the bill is enacted; or
- Veto the bill and return it to the County Council.
If the County Executive fails to return the bill within the 10-day period for action, the bill is enacted. If a bill is vetoed by the County Executive, the County Council may consider the enactment of the bill, notwithstanding the veto. Upon the affirmative vote of at least five Council members the vetoed bill is enacted.
Generally, a bill does not take effect until 45 days after enactment. However, a bill passed by at least five Council members may take effect on an earlier or later date after enactment.
In 1962, county business people recognized the need for a meaningful symbol to represent Baltimore County to the rest of the world. In response, the Catonsville Business Association launched a county-wide contest to create an official Baltimore County flag.
The contest, sanctioned by the County Executive, attracted hundreds of entries from tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders from twelve schools. Art teachers across the county selected the top 30, and a panel of experts in art, history, education and business chose the winner. On September 10, 1962, the County Council named John McLemore, a twelfth grade student at Parkville Senior High School, the winning designer.
Today, his flag, rich in symbolism and vivid color, waves proudly above Baltimore County. The familiar Calvert colors are coupled with a plow, symbolic of the county's agricultural richness, and a wheel of industry, symbolic of the prominence and progress of county businesses. The design proudly represents the county's economic strength and diversity, as well as its historic significance.
On April 2, 1957, the first County Council of Baltimore County passed an emergency resolution to adopt a Common Seal, something proud and historic, to appear on all official letters and stationery. The resolution asked for entries to be solicited from citizens of Baltimore County, including students and teachers.
The search for the most noble design was announced immediately, and the Council agreed to reward the winning designer with a $100 Savings Bond. More than thirty three designs were submitted, and each artist received a certificate from the County Council. Only one design, however, could win the contest.
The winning design, by Adelaide M. Haspert, a Towson resident, featured the Calvert and Crossland Coats of Arms and seven stars representing the county's seven councilmatic districts. The official Common Seal was approved by the County Council and enacted into law on June 10, 1957. Today, it continues to serve as a proud symbol of Baltimore County.
Revised January 5, 2010