Delegates Reject Wine-tastings Bill

November 24, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

For the second year in a row, a bill to let local liquor stores sponsor wine-tastings failed to gain support from the county's General Assembly delegation.

Ten other bills won delegation approval. Actionon a bill that would require developers who make campaign contributions to zoning board members to note those gifts in board records was postponed until January.

Delegate Virginia M. Thomas, D-13A, sought to save the wine-tasting bill by offering a rewritten version as an amendment at the delegation's work session Thursday night.

Her version would have appliedonly to wine- and cordial-tastings and would have required liquor store owners to personally supervise such events.

"I was against this last year, and I'm against it again this year," said Sen. Thomas M.Yeager, D-13, who chaired the work session.

Yeager said the granting of liquor licenses is "for the accommodation of the public, and Idon't see any accommodation whatsoever."

Two weeks earlier, representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers urged the delegation to withdraw the bill. Thomas did exactly that when her amendment garneredonly one other vote within the nine-member delegation.

The campaign contribution bill applies to property owners, contract purchasers and anyone else holding interest of 5 percent or more in land involved in a zoning case. The bill would require them to swear that they have not contributed in the last 36 months to the campaign of anyone serving on the zoning board. In Howard County, the five County Council members also serve as the zoning board.

If petitioners have made contributions in that period, the bill requires them to file an affidavit giving the name of the council member who received the gift and the amount and date of the contribution. Failure to do so could resultin the case being overturned. Violators could be fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year in jail.

Lynn Robeson, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, argued against the bill at the delegation's public hearing two weeks ago, saying it "creates a bias in a case even when there is no wrongdoing."

"Implicit in this bill is an assumptionthat valid decisions are not being made" by the Zoning Board, Robeson said.

One of the bill's sponsors, Delegate John Morgan, R-13B, thinks otherwise.

"Don't you think disclosure creates a positive atmosphere?" he asked Robeson.

"There are already disclosures" required in elections law, Robeson said. "Why isn't that good enough?"

Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, R-14B, asked Robeson to have the chamberreview the bill again and offer amendments rather than mere opposition to the bill.

The other 10 bills had little difficulty winning delegation approval. If enacted by the General Assembly, they would allow the county to collect a 5-percent hotel tax, exempt family day-care facilities from business restrictions in residential neighborhoods, prohibit "obscene live performances," authorize the community college to borrow at tax-exempt rates, allow county restaurant owners to hold more than one liquor license, and provide matching state grants to repair historic Waverly Mansion, Carroll Baldwin Hall, and the Wright Building.

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