An in-your-face vote Stadium: A liquor license request for the new Redskins facility gave the Prince George's delegation a chance to send a message, by a 6-5 margin, to owner Jack Kent Cooke.

The Political Game

March 18, 1997|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

LIQUOR, LIKE BLUE smoke and mirrors, is a staple of politics.

Liquor licenses, that is. Licenses for bars, for restaurants, for clubs, for package stores and even for mega-million-dollar sports stadiums -- all are grist for the petty mills of self- aggrandizement, patronage and jockeying for position.

Last week, for example, at Prince George's County's House delegation meeting, an application from Jack Kent Cooke was on the agenda.

Cooke wants a license that would allow him to serve alcoholic beverages at his new Redskins Stadium in Landover seven days a week. But even a man as wealthy as Cooke needs a few votes to move a bill, in this case a local measure granting the license.

The bill did pass the delegation, but not before it was amended. Transformed would be a better word: seven days became five in the amended bill. In the delegation's wisdom, the county's $200 million or so stadium needed authority for no more than five days -- though Cooke's representatives urged the delegation to recognize that patrons were likely to be on stadium grounds for more than football games Sunday and might want a beer or a glass of wine.

So why would the county's distinguished representatives vote to limit Cooke's beverage franchise? Because, it is said, the county delegation chairman, Nathaniel Exum, wants to run against incumbent state Sen. Decatur Trotter in the 1998 election. With resentment of Cooke as a carpetbagging mogul still running high in stadium neighborhoods, any inconvenience directed Cooke's way might be a joy for constituents to behold -- and a feather in the hat of the tormentor.

Not all members of the delegation were as enthused about this high-level lawmaking as some, however, and only 11 of the delegation's 20 members actually voted. Several passed, and then passed again. A few walked out of the room. One was at a doctor's appointment. When vote totals reached 6-5 in favor of the amendment, Exum ended the voting.

In a sense, the vote limiting Cooke's business was an in-your-face to the state of Maryland as well as to the team owner. Maryland taxpayers are paying $72 million or so to improve adjacent highways -- and thus the state has a stake in the stadium's success.

A bit peeved by these shenanigans, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said they would do whatever they could to strip away the amendment.

Who gets the credit for a tax cut?

If Maryland passes an income tax cut this year, the savings will be $334 for a family of four earning $40,000 a year when the cut is fully in effect.

What seems to matter, though, is who gets credit. At least three of the players in this year's Assembly want a bill to pass: Gov. Parris N. Glendening; House Speaker Taylor; the once and future GOP candidate for governor, Ellen R. Sauerbrey; and assorted others.

Already, philosophers of the Assembly are quizzing their colleagues on who to anoint as the Giver of Relief, 1997?

A popular order of merit:

1. Taylor, for getting the votes and keeping the issue alive in his chamber.

2. Ways and Means Committee liberals, for making the bill more palatable to all by directing the savings away from the wealthy to middle-income Marylanders and their children.

3. Sauerbrey, for making clear that tax cuts would be an issue in the 1998 race for governor.

4. Business and Economic Development Secretary James T. Brady, for forcing Glendening to advocate such a cut.

5. House Republicans, for carrying Sauerbrey's message.

6. Marginal House Democrats, for eagerly offering their votes so they can bring home a tax cut for voters who might otherwise look toward a Republican challenger.

7. Glendening, for trying to be happy with a thoroughly restructured bill.

Youthful delegates see no need to update photos

In one of the 1997 legislative session's boldest initiatives, Democratic Del. Maggie McIntosh asked her colleagues last week to approve legislation requiring legislators to give the State Archives an up-to-date photograph for use in the biennial state ledger of governmental names and faces known as the Maryland Manual. Some of her colleagues, anxious to hold off the ravages of time, were failing to update their pictures. Some of these looked, based on current evidence, as if they were taken around the time of a first Communion or when they first became eligible for a driver's license.

As final proof, McIntosh arranged for a picture to be shown on the House amendment screen. Suddenly delegates beheld the visage of Del. James W. Campbell, a Baltimore colleague and friend of McIntosh who was, that very day, celebrating his 50th birthday.

Could a man of 50 really be so boyish?

The McIntosh truth-in- portraiture bill failed, but the House had a moment of levity.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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