Ethics, liquor board bills remain

January 19, 1995|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

State Sen. Martin G. Madden has been foiled for four years in trying to pass legislation that would require applicants for zoning changes in Howard County to disclose political contributions. This legislative session, he's trying again -- with a slightly altered version of the bill.

But the rest of the Howard County delegation in Annapolis decided yesterday to delay a decision on whether to take Mr. Madden's bill to the legislature, while the bill's language is still being worked out.

Mr. Madden's "ethics bill" -- which has been fought over by Howard developers and residents wary of rampant growth -- is one of only two local bills still alive for the 1995 General Assembly session after the 11-member Howard delegation voted yesterday to defeat four other proposed measures.

The other bill still being considered for introduction by the delegation would create a county liquor board separate from the County Council, whose members now make rulings on liquor license issues.

Decisions on whether to introduce both the ethics bill and the liquor board bill to state legislature will be delayed while the delegation seeks more information and evaluates potential amendments, Howard legislators said yesterday.

Bills killed by the delegation yesterday included measures that would have allowed the county's state's attorney to appoint a second deputy state's attorney; exempted the county from a state-set maximum for restaurant licensing and inspection fees; and allowed smaller operations to qualify for a "luxury restaurant" liquor license.

The bill allowing a second deputy state's attorney did not pass because the newly elected Howard state's attorney, Marna McLendon, did not support it, said Republican Del. Robert L. Flanagan, the House delegation chairman.

Mr. Madden, who represents District 13 in southeastern Howard, has been pushing the ethics bill since he was elected to the legislature in 1990. Last year, the bill finally passed the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

This year, Mr. Madden is incorporating changes recommended by the county executive and the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

Among those are amendments requiring opponents of certain zoning changes to allow more development -- as well as proponents of these changes -- to disclose political contributions of $500 or more to council members and the county executive. The council also serves as the county Zoning Board.

"I think it enjoys widespread support" from county residents and community organizations, Mr. Madden said. "Objections always come from those immediately affected by it."

Advocates for reforming the way zoning decisions are made have supported the ethics bill, saying they're concerned that developers' contributions to Zoning Board members could have undue influence on decisions.

The former governor, County Council members and home builders' organizations have opposed the bill, saying it applied too narrowly to the council and developers -- rather than all public officials and residents who have an interest in land-use changes.

At yesterday's meeting, Del. Frank S. Turner, a District 13A Democrat, questioned whether the ethics bill would still have loopholes that might make it ineffective.

"This is not a flawless bill that someone can't find a way around if he wants to, but it's a start," Mr. Madden replied.

The delegation also delayed a vote on the proposal to create a separate liquor board to allow members time to seek out the council's position. The delegation has killed similar bills many times previously, in part because some legislators and council members have argued that a separate liquor board would increase costs.

The delegation has scheduled a public hearing Feb. 7 in Ellicott City to allow residents to comment on any issue of local or statewide concern.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.