In last night’s council meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to approve sending a letter in support of PG 402-12, a bill in the General Assembly that would permit Prince George’s County to impose a fee of $0.05 for the use of most paper or plastic disposable bags in retail establishments.  This fee would be similar to the fee imposed for use of plastic bags in Washington, DC, and Montgomery County.

The Council also voted to send a letter to support the Same sex marriage bill, which was introduced yesterday. I’d like to talk a little more about my vote on this, because  I was the only one who cast the dissenting vote.

Personally I felt the bill was too controversial. Soon after residents came to know that the council will take a position on a same sex marriage bill, residents started discussing it and sending emails. And this happened even before they did not see the content of the bill. I’ve received some emails supporting the bill, but many more emails opposing it. Out of 8 items we voted, this was the only item that received dozens of emails.

I also felt that the Council acted too quickly to get the motion passed. On Friday evening, I found this letter of support that  we voted last night. When I first saw this letter, I asked myself  – how will I vote on a bill that does not exist? So next day, I asked our staff to send me a link or reference to the bill. On Monday, I was told that the City does not have a reference, but one will be given to me  as soon as it is available. The bill was introduced yesterday morning, thus Council members could only get the first look at the bill until before the council meeting started. At the time, I’d assume that most council members did not have the time to study the bill nor did they have any time to consult their constituents.

Because of this highly controversial and complex nature of the bill that deals with social issues such as marriage, relationship, faith and religion, and because I felt a large number of my constituents could not be consulted within very short time, I didn’t feel that a few of us on this Council should be imposing our  own opinions on thousands of City residents.

I however suggested that if we really have to send a message to the State from our City – let’s put this issue to a referendum, let’s ask our city residents to decide what they think about it. Our City has  a history of putting controversial issues to ballot, like we did in 2007 when we asked what residents feel about having our own Police force.  Council members at that time did not feel comfortable to vote on the issue. But, in this case, we didn’t have to, because the State is not asking us to take a position on this.

I thank everyone who wrote to the Mayor and the Council either for – or against the bill  and testified at yesterday’s hearing before the vote.