Lawmakers support creating a separate liquor panel But County Council would be given veto power

January 16, 1998|By Edward Lee and Craig Timberg | Edward Lee and Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

A state bill that would take responsibility for administering county liquor law away from the Howard County Council crossed another hurdle yesterday.

The Howard County delegation of state lawmakers approved creating a separate, appointed liquor board while granting the council veto power over the board's decisions.

"This is a good compromise," said state Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Clarksville Republican, who hammered out the details of the bill with the council members. "It relieves the council of the administrative and routine license transfers they were making, but it still keeps the council responsible for major and controversial decisions."

But Councilman Charles C. Feaga criticized the legislation because it would give the county executive -- who would choose the five-member board -- the power to select one of the three candidates to be nominated by each council member.

"I thought that it was better to leave it in our hands," said Feaga, who favors allowing the five council members to appoint members from their own districts. "This is a clumsy bill that should never have been passed."

Del. Shane Pendergrass, an east Columbia Democrat, defended the measure.

"It's a good bill," she said. "It's not perfect. It's a compromise."

Added Madden: "This is as close to the checks and balances as we could come. Anytime you have a compromise, not everyone is going to be happy."

In other matters, the delegation also approved a bill to permit liquor stores to apply for a wine-tasting license that would allow them to offer 1-ounce samples of wine. The restrictions would include limiting each customer to no more than four samples, with the delegation reviewing the wine-tasting procedure after a three-year period.

The delegation approved hiring a second deputy state's attorney and a $10,000 pay raise for the county sheriff, who now makes almost $9,000 less than the deputies. The bill, which would raise the salary to $52,000, also includes a 2 percent increase each year.

The bills must be approved by the General Assembly. Another bill to double fines for motorists caught speeding in residential zones was tabled.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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