Legislators rebuff bid to form liquor board They deadlock on letting council audit schools

February 01, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The Howard County legislative delegation rejected a bill yesterday to create a new county liquor board, frustrating County Council members who no longer want to serve as that board along with their other duties.

Also, the delegation deadlocked on a bill to allow the County Council to conduct performance audits of the Howard school system. The proposal will not go forward, eliminating the last point in a running conflict between the county school board and some members of the delegation. But a statewide bill is expected to be approved this legislative session, permitting similar school audits to be done by the Maryland Department of Education.

On the liquor board bill, some council members have been trying for years to have a separate board appointed, thereby removing themselves from the direct regulation of bars and liquor stores. "I think it is time for Howard County to limit where [council members] are putting our energy," said council Chairman Darrel Drown.

Council members had sought to set up a five-person board, with each council member selecting a representative from his or her district. The panel would have reported to the council. But the proposal never gained the support of the delegation.

Under a compromise worked out by Mr. Drown, each council member would have drawn up a list of three liquor board candidates from his or her district, and the county executive would have selected one board member from each list.

A majority of the Howard delegates supported the compromise yesterday. But the two of the county's three senators rejected it, apparently in part because council member Charles C. Feaga opposed the proposal.

"It was turning away our responsibility as a council and giving too many appointments to the executive," said Mr. Feaga. "We have one of the best liquor boards in the state, and I think we need to have it be watched over closely by us."

Mr. Drown said he was disappointed by the rejection of the liquor board proposal, but he pledged to try again next year to free the council of those responsibilities.

On the issue of school audits, county educators say they're satisfied that the delegation chose not to go forward with the Howard proposal -- pushed by Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Republican representing western Howard. They instead favor a statewide measure backed by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a Democrat from Allegany County.

Mr. Taylor's compromise proposal would permit performance audits of county school systems by the state education department. The bill is endorsed by the Maryland Association of Counties, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland.

Mr. Flanagan said he was disappointed that his bill to allow the County Council to oversee audits was rejected. He said he had revised the bill to try to satisfy critics but believed it was essential to have county oversight of audits.

"I don't think that Howard County citizens are adequately represented when the only place they can go for an audit is to the state Board of Education," Mr. Flanagan said. "Citizens have much more access to the County Council and should be able to go to them for audits."

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