'Quiet year' in Assembly is predicted Carroll's delegation sees little controversy in its legislative plan

Major issues not local

Proposal to expand commissioners to 5 only nonroutine bill

February 02, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's State House delegation expects little controversy in Annapolis over its package of local bills.

Other than a proposal that would permit a referendum on increasing the number of county commissioners from three to five, most of the legislation addresses routine matters.

Among the proposals filed by the deadline Thursday are bills to modify county liquor laws, authorize bond issues and allocate money for the Agricultural Center.

"It's a relatively quiet year for Carroll County," said Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty. "Most of the major issues will be state issues rather than local issues."

The six-member delegation weighed the requests of County Commissioners and the opinions of county residents Jan. 18 before introducing local legislation.

The measure that would have the greatest effect on residents is a proposal to allow a referendum on the 1998 ballot to expand the Board of County Commissioners.

"It's going to be up to the people to make that decision," said Republican Del. Donald B. Elliott.

The delegation voted 5-1 this month to file the bill. Del. Ellen L. Willis, the delegation's only Democrat, voted against the proposal.

Said Elliott, "I think the county has matured to the point where we're going to have more complex issues that need to be addressed. An expanded panel brings an expansion of intellect as well as experience."

As the county faces continued residential growth, Elliott said, it may be necessary for the commissioners to form committees to study development-related matters. Having five commissioners would make this easier, he said.

The bill would allow the election of commissioners in an at-large vote, instead of a regional election, which is Elliott's preference.

"I got the feeling from the public that at-large was the better way to go," he said.

In response to a request from Westminster officials, the delegation backed a bill that would allow the county to grant microbrewery licenses. Investment groups have expressed interest in locating a microbrewery in downtown Westminster, officials said.

At the suggestion of Sen. Larry E. Haines, the delegation amended the legislation to require that microbreweries be 300 feet or more from the property lines of schools or places of worship.

"We thought it was a good idea to have some type of limitation," Getty said.

Another bill would authorize County Commissioners to sell $18.4 million in bonds to finance public facilities.

Carroll lawmakers supported a bill to secure $600,000 in state money, to be matched by the county, for renovation, expansion and construction activities at the County Agricultural Center in Westminster.

Other delegation-sponsored initiatives include bills relating to county liquor laws. The legislation would:

Give County Commissioners the authority to set liquor license fees.

Create a beer-tasting license, similar to wine-tasting permits, to allow sampling of microbrews and specialty beers.

Amend the county's golf course license to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol on fairways and in clubhouses.

Increase the license fees for the Maryland Wine Festival, held in Westminster, from $15 to $50.

Permit Sunday sale of liquor from bars and counters. Existing law permits only table sales.

Noticeably absent from the Carroll delegation's list of local bills is a proposal to create a special taxing district to fix failing septic systems in Lineboro. The tax, supported by a group of residents there, would have been used to pay for a community wastewater-treatment system.

The delegation tabled the proposal and directed the community to do more research on the issue and its implications.

"They seem to be a very sincere group, but I think they're not cognizant of what a special tax district would entail," Elliott said. "It appears we're not going to accomplish much on the issue this year. It's disappointing, but we have to have things in order before we proceed."

In addition to submitting local legislation to the General Assembly, Carroll delegation members have sponsored individual bills.

Haines, the delegation chairman, has filed several pieces of legislation, including a measure that would raise the agriculture share of the state transfer tax to generate more money for agricultural preservation, give a $1,000 income tax credit for private school tuition, increase penalties for marijuana possession and ban "partial-birth" abortions.

A bill sponsored by Getty would expand the pool of potential jurors by using Motor Vehicle Administration records, as well as voter-registration lists.

"Having voter-registration lists as the only source for juror pools is a disincentive for people to register to vote," Getty said. "They know if they don't register, they won't be called for jury duty."

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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