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.