Nu­mer­ous Ce­cil bills set to pass

Slots par­ity for Hol­ly­wood Casino did not make it

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— Now that the end of the Mary­land General Assem­bly is less than a week away and the cross­over date has passed, leg­is­la­tors know what has a chance of be­ing passed this ses­sion.

Bills that do not make it out of com­mit­tee in or­der to be heard by a larger cham­ber be­fore the March 21 cross- over day have vir­tu­ally no hope of pas­sage.

Per­haps most no­table of the lo­cal bills that will not pass this year is one that sought par­ity for Hol­ly­wood Casino Perr yville’s slots tax. The bill, which saw Hol­ly­wood Casino ex­ec­u­tives hire a Bal­ti­more lob­by­ing firm, ul­ti­mately did not make it out of ei­ther its House of Del­e­gates or State Se­nate com­mit­tee af­ter hear­ings in midMarch.

On Mon­day, Del­e­gate Kevin Horn­berger (R-Ce­cil) said that the bill will likely be a two or three­year ef­fort af­ter talk­ing with com­mit­tee mem­bers this ses­sion.

“They want to see how the new Na­tional Har­bor Casino per­forms af­ter it opens this year, and what other casi­nos will seek in read­just­ments,” he said, not­ing there is talk of

AN­NAPO­LIS

Rocky Gap Casino and Casino at Ocean Downs also join­ing Hol­ly­wood Casino Perr yville is seek­ing a more com­pet­i­tive tax rate for the state’s three small­est casi­nos.

An­other of Horn­berger’s bills, seek­ing to fund a study on the po­ten­tial vi­a­bil­ity of elk in Ce­cil County, which was op­posed by county of­fi­cials, also did not make it out of its House com­mit­tee be­fore cross- over day. He had hoped that such a study, po­ten­tially funded by a non­profit, would prove a fi­nan­cial wind­fall for eco­tourism and hunt­ing in the county, but the bill was op­posed by farm­ers who feared dam­age to their crops and county of­fi­cials who saw need­less danger from new large wild an­i­mals.

“The elk bill was put in late so it wasn’t able to get a vote, and the com­mit­tee said that they would re­ally like to see a let­ter of sup­port from the county,” Horn­berger said. “With a regime change com­ing next year in the county, we’ll have some new con­ver­sa­tions then and see where we stand.”

Af­ter fur­ther re­search and con­ver­sa­tion, the del­e­gate also said a study might not have to be done though leg­is­la­tion ei­ther, but could be funded by a non­profit through the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources with­out over­sight by the General Assem­bly.

Mean­while, sev­eral other bills of lo­cal in­ter­est are well poised to pass be­fore the leg­is­la­ture ad­journs on Mon­day, also known as “Sine Die Day.”

Among those bills are some seek­ing to in­crease the sher­iff’s salary, start Ara­bian horse rac­ing at Fair Hill, al­low mi­cro­brewies in the county, and end the re­quire­ment of hav­ing both par­ties ap­pear to­gether to ap­ply for a mar­riage li­cense.

House Bill 816, which aims to raise the Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s salary about 22 per­cent to a more com­pet­i­tive $ 100,000 start­ing af­ter the end of Sher­iff Scott Adams’ first term, was unan­i­mously ap­proved by the House. It re­ceived a hear­ing in the Se­nate on March 29, in which it re­ceived no op­po­si­tion.

House Bill 1071- Se­nate Bill 958, which seeks to al­low Class 7 mi­cro- brew­eries to op­er­ate in the county, is on pace to be ap­proved this ses­sion af­ter be­ing unan­i­mously ap­proved in the House and given a fa­vor­able re­port in its Se­nate com­mit­tee Mon­day.

House Bill 832- Se­nate Bill 715, which aims to make ob­tain­ing a mar­riage li­cense eas­ier for a cou­ple by re­peal­ing a re­quire­ment that both in­di­vid­u­als ap­pear to­gether at the clerk of the court’s of­fice, sailed through both cham­bers, be­ing al­ready ap­proved unan­i­mously in the House and Se­nate. It awaits Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s sig­na­ture.

House Bill 815- Se­nate Bill 1116, which seeks to al­low Ara­bian horse rac­ing at Fair Hill along with Thor­ough­breds and quar­ter horses, also re­ceived strong sup­port and is on track to be passed both cham­bers.

“The Ara­bian horse rac­ing bill re­ally caught fire af­ter its pas­sage in the House,” Horn­berger said Mon­day, not­ing that ev­ery mem­ber of the Se­nate Finance Com­mit­tee wanted to cross- file it af­ter it was heard there.

The del­e­gate’s com­mer­cial snake­head bow­fish­ing li­cense mea­sure — House Bill 1387-Se­nate Bill 1054 — also fared well with near unan­i­mous pas­sage in both cham­bers. Horn­berger said that bill, which had dozens of cospon­sors in­clud­ing lead cospon­sor State Sen. James Mathias ( R- Lower Shore), also helped him build coali­tions for fu­ture sup­port.

“That bill was a huge bridge builder,” he said. “We made some in- roads on both sides of the aisle with it.”

One lo­cal bill with an un­cer­tain fu­ture late in the ses­sion, how­ever, is House Bill 824, which seeks to in­crease the al­lowance for trav­el­ing ex­penses for judges of the Or­phans’ Court for Ce­cil County from $780 to $1,600, and mak­ing judges who have com­pleted 12 years of ser­vice el­i­gi­ble for a pen­sion. The mea­sure was passed unan­i­mously in the House, but, in a Se­nate Ju­di­cial Pro­ceed­ings Com­mit­tee hear­ing last week, came un­der some ques­tion­ing.

State Sen. Justin Ready ( R- Car­roll) ques­tioned why judges of the or­phans court needed a travel ex­pense, a thought echoed by Horn­berger’s del­e­ga­tion col­league, State Sen. Wayne Nor­man ( R- Har­ford/ Ce­cil).

Horn­berger replied that the judges are paid a nom­i­nal amount — $7,500 a year — and a big­ger travel bud­get is a way to help aug­ment their com­pen­sa­tion for the du­ties of the of­fice, adding that other sim­i­lar- sized coun­ties have the same ap­pro­pri- ation. He also said that or­phan court judges some­times have to travel to ad­ju­di­cate an estate.

Nor­man, who is a prac­tic­ing at­tor­ney, said he’s han­dled many es­tates and has never had to do so out­side of his of­fice, rais­ing some ques­tions about how the travel ex­penses would be paid out.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bobby Zirkin ( D- Bal­ti­more) asked Horn­berger to con­fer with the Ce­cil County Sen­a­to­rial Del­e­ga­tion be­fore his com­mit­tee would vote on it, not­ing that it has no state fis­cal im­pact and would be borne by Ce­cil County en­tirely.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

A num­ber of lo­cal bills are set to pass the General Assem­bly this year, but slots tax par­ity will not be one.

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