Pittman Seeks ‘Pay-for-Play’ Legislation

    Anne Arundel County state senators have introduced a bill at the request of new County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) that would prohibit developers or their agents from making campaign donations to County Council and county executive candidates if they have applications pending before the county government.

    Bill supporters argue that it would counter the influence of land developers on rezoning applications and other important land use decisions – and they said it protects developers, public officials, and communities from the “pay-to-play” practices.

    “As I traveled across the county last year, people told me they felt like the deck was stacked against them on land use issues,” Pittman said in a statement. “I want to restore people’s trust in the public process. In my administration, we want land use decisions to be fair, open, and transparent. I believe if you have a zoning application open before the county, then you should keep your checkbook closed.”

    Damon Effingham, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, has endorsed the legislation.

    “Citizens deserve to know that they aren’t being outgunned by special interests in these important decisions that affect their communities,” he said.

    Pittman also announced that he is forming a task force to explore public financing options and other campaign reforms for the county. Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, a nonprofit leader and Anne Arundel resident who is a former executive director of Common Cause Maryland, will serve as chair of the task force.

    “We have seen the power of these programs in last year’s election in Montgomery County, and their broad support from voters across Maryland,” she said.

    While Pittman works to take money out of county politics, a bill is proceeding in the legislature to put it back into Prince George’s County politics. The bill, which would rescind a law banning the Prince George’s County executive from raising money from developers with projects pending, was scheduled to be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.