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BY COLUMNISTS

| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Patricia Price | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. |

DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


March 20, 2006

General Assembly Journal 2006 – Part 11

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The 2006 County Legislative package is winding its way through the maze of legislative action during the 90-day session. Some of these bills were requested by the county commissioners and some by other groups and organizations needing legislative intervention to solve a problem.

HB 117 * * * * Status as of March 6, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Appropriations

Creation of a State Debt – Frederick County - C&O Canal National Historic Catoctin Aqueduct

House: Appropriations (Heard: March 11, 2006)

Description: HB 117 is a bond bill requesting $150,000 for the reconstruction of the Catoctin Aqueduct, carrying the C&O Canal over Catoctin Creek between Brunswick and Lander. The total project cost is well over $2 million. Not too controversial, but there are a few other projects, including a bond bill submitted by Del. Galen Clagett (D., Frederick) for $1.9 million to make improvements at Harry Grove Stadium. I’d much rather see limited state funds used to partner with the C&O Canal National Historic Park than I would see them used to improve a sports stadium, but that’s just me.

HB 153 * * * * Status as of February 28, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Environmental Matters

Frederick County - State's Attorney - Salary

House: Environmental Matters (Heard: March 9, 2006)

Description: The salary of the Frederick County State’s Attorney would be increased to 100% of the salary of a District Court judge. You’ll remember this bill. It was the source of the “Emailgate” controversy, where Scott Rolle and Sen. David Brinkley (R., Frederick) were sending emails back and forth speculating about the motives of delegation members who didn’t support the increase. Del. Patrick Hogan (R., Frederick), Sen. Alex Mooney (R., Frederick), and Del. Joe Bartlett (R., Frederick) had all expressed some level of objection to the bill when it first came up in the weekly delegation meeting. Senator Brinkley speculated that the three were opposed to a salary increase due to Rolle’s challenging Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R., 6th, MD) for Dr. Bartlett’s congressional seat two years ago. I don’t buy it in all three cases. Alex and Joe said they opposed it because they thought that the state’s attorney was compensated sufficiently. Truth be told, part of their objection was likely fueled by lingering anger from Rolle’s challenge. Delegate Hogan just had some questions that hadn’t been answered. Both Delegate Bartlett and Senator Mooney believe that they are the heir-apparent to Dr. Bartlett’s seat in Congress. Many don’t share that view, but they both feel very strongly that their future is in Congress. Time – and voters will tell. The salary increase does not apply to the incumbent state’s attorney, but only to the person who wins this fall’s election. Speculation is that Mr. Rolle will run for the attorney general of Maryland, making any personal motivation against an increase a moot point.

HB 224 * * * * Status as of January 24, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Appropriations

Frederick County - Collective Bargaining - Representatives for Correctional Officers

House: Appropriations (Heard: January 31, 2006)

Description: The delegation had previously supported collective bargaining rights for sheriff’s deputies and career fire and rescue personnel. Weird, huh? A clear majority of a delegation with only one Democrat member (Delegate Clagett) voting to give union-based collective bargaining rights to local government employees is certainly not a part of the standard political playbook. Before you start drafting your version of the Delegation Communist Manifesto, look at why the bills passed. Sheriff Hagy asked us to formalize his own negotiation with the FOP and corrections staff. None of these employees can strike, even with the ability to bargain collectively.

HB 255 * * * *Status as of February 22, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Ways and Means

Frederick County - Gaming – Raffles

House: Ways and Means (Heard: March 14, 2006)

Description: This bill allows charitable organizations to hold raffles that have duration of more than one day. The bill also allows these raffles to have prizes of up to $5,000 in value. This came about because of the popularity of “calendar raffles,” where daily prizes are drawn based on the numbers drawn by the state lottery. Fire companies have started using these raffles with some success.

HB 259 * * * *Status as of February 8, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Economic Matters

Frederick County - Special Beer Festival

House: Economic Matters (Heard: March 6, 2006)

Description: This bill allows up to four (4) special beer festivals per year in Frederick County. These events are not drunken bacchanals, with beer-swilling knuckleheads stumbling around and fighting. They are designed to highlight and feature the craft-brewery industry in Maryland, and are intended to have economic development value. The bill allows these to be held at a facility that holds a “stadium on-premises” sales license, and only Harry Grove Stadium has one of these. Anticipate some beer festivals at the ballpark next year!

HB 477 * * * *Status as of February 8, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Environmental Matters

Frederick County - Community Development Authorities

House: Environmental Matters (Heard: February 23, 2006)

Description: This bill allows the county commissioners to use the Community Development Authority instrument for generating growth impact revenue in all areas of the county. Under current law, they can only do so in specific areas, such as Lake Linganore and Urbana. This bill pits the no-growthers against the economic developers, a battle that will play out in the coming county election cycle.

HB 516 * * * *Status as of February 8, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Economic Matters

Frederick County - Advisory Plumbing Board

House: Economic Matters (Heard: February 16, 2006)

Description: This bill increases the number of plumbers on the Plumbing Board. Trust me, only the plumbers care about this one!

HB 559 * * * *Status as of February 8, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Environmental Matters

Frederick County - Real Property Sales - Disclosure

House: Environmental Matters (Heard: February 23, 2006)

Description: This bill, following the CDA bill above, requires the seller of real property in an area covered by a CDA to disclose the existence of the CDA. On several occasions, Commissioner Jan Gardner has indicated that once people move into Urbana or Linganore and discover that they pay more in CDA tax than do other residents, they immediately petition the commissioners to remove the tax. The BOCC added this bill to their legislative package to require sellers and real estate agents to formally disclose the CDA.

HB 560 * * * *Status as of February 3, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Ways and Means

Frederick County - Property Tax Credit - Individuals of Age 70 or Older

House: Ways and Means (Heard: February 15, 2006)

Description: This is the crowning achievement of Commissioner Bruce Reeder’s most recent term in office. This bill enables the commissioners to enact a tax credit for citizen’s age 70 and older who meet an income limitation test. The commissioners will have to hold public hearings in order to design and implement the actual program details. We call this “enabling legislation”, and it passed on a unanimous vote of the delegation.

HB 561 * * * *Status as of February 17, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Ways and Means

Frederick County - Building Excise Tax – Road Projects

House: Ways and Means (Heard: February 24, 2006)

Description: This bill allows the commissioners to “de-couple” the transportation excise tax from a previous requirement that any project funded by the tax must have a 50-50 state match. Two years ago, the delegation approved the requirement that the county had to obtain funding from the state that matches the expenditure of revenue from the transportation excise tax.

HB 567 * * * *Status as of March 10, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Environmental Matters

Frederick County - Firefighting, Rescue, and Ambulance Services

House: Environmental Matters (Hearing: March 20, 2006, 1 P.M.)

Description: This bill removes the specification of how the commissioners spend the revenue raised by the Fire Tax. Current law directs the commissioners on what they can do with the money, and they asked for flexibility in order to use the money to build community facilities.

HB 725 * * * *Status as of February 8, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Economic Matters

Frederick County - Alcoholic Beverages - Beer, Wine and Liquor License

House: Economic Matters (Heard: March 6, 2006)

St. Katherine Drexel Roman Catholic Church has asked the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for the right to obtain a license for alcohol sales. They would use the money for capital improvements at the church. Currently, only fire companies have that right. Guess they think they’ll sell some booze at bingo, huh?

HB 726 * * * *Status as of February 8, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Economic Matters

Frederick County - Alcoholic Beverages Sales - Tuscarora District

House: Economic Matters (Heard: March 6, 2006)

Description: Guess where St. Katherine Drexel is located? In the Tuscarora Election District, that’s where. Currently, the Tuscarora Election District is a dry district, meaning that there are no liquor licenses issued there. No designation means no license for St. Katherine Drexel. This is a referendum bill, so the voters will have a question on the ballot in November 2006 in order to allow alcohol sales in the Tuscarora Election District. Wonder if St. Katherine Drexel will campaign for their referendum? HB 1033 * * * *Status as of March 13, 2006: Bill is in the House – Unfavorable Judiciary

Frederick County - Courts - Filing Fee for Divorce Proceeding

House: Judiciary

Description: This bill creates a $100 filing fee for getting a divorce in Frederick. This bill is the first casualty of the county’s 2006 legislative package. The House Judiciary Committee rejected this bill, with both Republicans and Democrats opposing it. The committee counsel argued that setting the filing fee for a divorce is a state responsibility, not a role for the county. Unlike marriage fees, which are set, collected, and mostly disbursed locally, divorce fees are used to cover some of the state costs of operating the courts.

HB 1324 * * * *Status as of March 1, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Appropriations

Creation of a State Debt - Frederick County - Alan P. Linton, Jr. Emergency Shelter Site

House: Appropriations (Heard: March 13, 2006)

Description: This is another bond bill, asking for $250,000 for the Alan Linton Emergency Shelter in downtown Frederick. Bond funds would be used to repair, reconstruct, and outfit the facility (located on DeGrange Street). Since the shelter is operated by the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, the bill includes specific language prohibiting the funds from being used for sectarian religious purposes. Again, this might be competing for funds with both the Aqueduct and Harry Grove Stadium. The Senate capital budget included $50,000 of the $250,000 request, so we’ll see what happens as House Appropriations weighs in.

HB 1409 * * * *Status as of February 22, 2006: Bill is in the House – First Reading Ways and Means

Frederick County - County Commissioners - Residency Requirements

House: Ways and Means (Heard: March 15, 2006)

Description: My personal favorite of the 2006 Legislative package, this bill requires that members of the BOCC to actually live in Frederick County. One might argue that on some past boards, we might have been better off with carpet-bagging foreigners, but you’d never hear me say that! HB 1628 * * * *Status as of March 15, 2006: Bill is in the House – Re-referred Ways and Means

Frederick County - Board of Education - Compensation

House: Ways and Means (Hearing: March 23, 2006, 1 P.M.)

Description: This bill raises the compensation for the members of the Board of Education. The board president would receive $11,000 per year, plus access to the employee health insurance policy. The other board members would receive $10,000 per year, and would also have access to the insurance benefits available to FCPS employees. Some folks might object to a raise for the BOE, but not me. The hours they put in easily justify a significant increase.

HB 1641 * * * *Status as of March 15, 2006: Bill is in the House – Re-referred Economic Matters

Frederick County - Alcoholic Beverages - Beer and Wine Sampling or Tasting License

House: Economic Matters (Hearing: March 20, 2006, 1 P.M.)

Description: This bill changes the wine tasting license to a beer and wine sampling and tasting license. It also raises the cost of this license from $150 to $200, and it sets specific limits on how much beer and wine that attendees under the licensee’s control can consume. Taken together, you might think that Frederick is going to turn into one big beer bash. Not really, I just think it’s good for our wineries, many of which are just really getting into the business. They need to build a customer base, and these events do help to do that.

There is one potentially ominous political development in our bill roster. Only one of our bills has actually emerged from a committee, and that one received an unfavorable report. We’re less than a week away from “cross-over,” the magic date when a bill that originates in one chamber must move to the other in order to pass by the end of session (Sine Die).

Things are really going to have to break in relation to all of these bills if we’re going to get them passed and signed into law. It might be no more than pure political speculation, but is the fact that our delegation is comprised mostly of minority party members, and therefore we may not get many bills out in this very partisan environment?

More likely, it’s just the volume of work backing things up and increasing the pressure. We’ll see!



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