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Bill on Prince George’s Developer Contributions Advances

The Prince George’s County House delegation moved a step closer Friday to lifting a ban on developer contributions in county political races – a law that went into effect following a widespread corruption scandal.

The delegation voted 18-5 in support of a local bill by Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) that would repeal the prohibition on developers or their agents making campaign contributions to the Prince George’s County executive or a political slate that includes the county executive when the developer has a proposed project pending before the county government.

The ban first went into effect in 2012, following the multiple scandals surrounding former county executive Jack Johnson (D), who served time in federal prison after accepting bribes from developers and local businessmen.

Davis, the only lawmaker to speak during the delegation’s brief debate on the measure, told his colleagues that the prohibition was unnecessary and misguided.

“We wanted to address a bribery case with a campaign finance law,” he said. He asserted that the ban on developer contributions – which does not exist in most other Maryland jurisdictions – unfairly limits Prince George’s officials’ ability to raise money and unfairly links them to scandals of the past.

“We’re not defined by the unfortunate transgressions of a couple of folks,” Davis said.

Voting for the bill: Dels. Ben Barnes, Darryl Barnes, Nick Charles, Diana M. Fennell, Wanika Fisher, Tawanna P. Gaines, Andrea Fletcher Harrison, Anne Healey, Marvin E. Holmes Jr., Michael A. Jackson, Jazz Lewis, Susie Proctor, Veronica Turner, Kriselda Valderrama, Geraldine Valentino-Smith, Jay Walker and Ron Watson.

Voting against: Dels. Erek L. Barron, Julian Ivey, Mary A. Lehman, Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Alonzo T. Washington. All members of the Prince George’s delegation are Democrats.

The measure now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections bills.

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