The members of the Howard County Council will be stuck doing double duty as the county's Liquor Board for at least one more year, state legislators decided last night.
Opposition from the local liquor industry and concerns about the Total Beverage super-store proposed for Columbia helped kill efforts to have an appointed board take over the job of approving, suspending and revoking liquor licenses.
"I would want someone who was elected by a majority of the citizens to make those tough calls," said Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, an Ellicott City Republican.
Howard's State House delegation, including eight delegates and three senators, last night began reviewing 13 bills that apply to Howard only. The delegation must approve the bills before the measures go to the General Assembly next month.
The delegation approved or delayed action on most bills last night, but opposition to the Liquor Board bill was so strong that the sponsor, Del. Shane Pendergrass, an East Columbia Democrat, let it die without a vote.
"I don't know if it's nicer to withdraw the bill or let it get clobbered," she said shortly before withdrawing it.
At a hearing two weeks ago, a Howard liquor store owner had argued that an appointed liquor board might be less fair and responsive than the County Council.
A letter submitted last night by Bill Harrison, president of the Howard County Licensed Beverage Association, made the same point.
"The current board has been scandal free and [is] considered the most fair by everyone," Harrison wrote. "Appointed boards do not have that reputation."
The prospect of Total Beveragecoming to Columbia also was discussed. "When we say we're concerned about small business and we're considering granting a license to a store that would be absolutely mammoth, I don't think it's the proper time for a change," said Del. Elizabeth M. Bobo, a west Columbia Democrat and former county executive.
The delegation acted on seven other bills:
A measure to give the County Council power to regulate the sale of tobacco in Howard passed with opposition from only Del. Donald E. Murphy, a Catonsville Republican whose district includes Elkridge.
Pendergrass said she sponsored the bill to give the council power to regulate the sale of tobacco to minors. Murphy said the bill was too broad and might allow the council to prohibit tobacco sales altogether.
A measure to build a 100-acre youth camp in Patapsco State Park passed. Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Clarksville Republican, proposed the measure to replace Camp Ilchester in Ellicott City, which the Girl Scouts have largely sold off to a developer.
Under Madden's plan, the state and Howard County would split the $400,000 cost of building the new youth camp. The bill, which has the support of County Executive Charles I. Ecker, passed unanimously.
A measure to require that developers requesting zoning changes reveal business dealings with members of the Zoning Board passed.
Last winter, Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a West Friendship Republican, voted on a zoning matter involving developers who also had an option to buy his family farm.
A measure to raise the maximum fine for liquor violations from $1,000 to $2,000 passed. The bill also would allow the Liquor Board to suspend a license and impose a fine in a single case. Current law allows one or the other.
A measure to raise the fee for a one-day special-event liquor license from $5 to $15 passed.
A measure to extend property tax credits to businesses that lease rather than own their property passed.
A measure to establish a committee to set the salary of school board members failed.
Action on five bills was delayed until January. Measures passed by the delegation last night still must be approved by the General Assembly to become law.
Pub Date: 12/05/96