Home Rule in Maryland

Fighting for Municipal Equality

From 1948 until Home Rule passed in 1954, MML lobbied hard for constitutional Home Rule - state constitutional recognition that municipalities are equal under state law. Home Rule means that all municipalities have their own local charters or basic laws that describe the structure, powers, procedures, and services of the municipality.

Municipalities draw these powers from the state constitution and from laws that the General Assembly passes. Home Rule in Maryland also means that all municipalities are potentially equal in terms of the powers that are available to them. (There are two major exceptions here, the City of Baltimore and the municipalities in suburban Washington, D.C.)

Finally, Home Rule means that all municipalities - within the grant of powers provided by the Maryland State Constitution and the Annotated Code of Maryland - may exercise all applicable powers and make changes to their local charter on a strictly local basis. They need not seek legislative permission from the General Assembly to do anything the Maryland State Constitution or the Annotated Code permits. However, the authority of municipalities is conditioned, first, by the specific powers that the legislature grants and, second, by a widely accepted interpretation of that grant of power, known as the Dillon Rule.