Liquor store tastings, E-ZPass top county’s 2017 legislative wishes
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— Cecil County package liquor store owners are behind proposed legislation for consideration in 2017 that would allow county liquor stores to host beer, wine and liquor tastings.
Cecil County Chief Liquor Board Inspector Earl Bradford requested the proposed bill Friday during a meeting in Elkton with state lawmakers who represent Cecil County. It was part of the annual meeting with the county delegation to talk about priorities and legislative requests for the 2017 General Assembly session that starts Jan. 11.
Attorney Robert Jones, representing several Class A (off-sale only) liquor licensees, told the Cecil County Board of License Commissioners in late June that liquor store owners say this would boost sales for them. The liquor board agreed and drafted a bill that is similar to one adopted by Harford County.
“We had no opposition and plenty of support for this,” Bradford said.
The bill would establish a beer, wine and liquor tasting license in Cecil County that could be issued to the holder of a Class A or Class B beer, wine and liquor license. It would allow for on-premise consumption of beer, wine and liquor for tasting for a maximum of any 26 days in a licensing period, any 52 days in a licensing period or an entire licensing period.
If a license holder is issued a tasting license for 26 or 52 days, they must notify the liquor board at least seven days prior to use. In addition, customers are limited to 1-ounce tastings of beer or wine and half-ounce tastings of liquor.
License fees are $125 for a 26 day license, $200 for a 52-day license and $400 for a oneyear license.
“This type of license already exists in 10 counties in Maryland,” Bradford said.
The delegation said they would look into submitting it as a statewide bill.
County and state officials also agreed to reintroduce a bill that would allow the special commuter Hatem Bridge E-ZPass transponder to be accepted on the Tydings (Interstate 95) Bridge during rush hour hours only, although state officials told them earlier Friday that the potential loss of revenue would be an issue for bondholders.
“I’ve been working on this for a long time and it still keeps coming back to the bondholder issue,” County Executive Tari Moore said. “I’m not sure what the answers are, but we can’t give up — maybe we should establish another work group.”
Some of the lawmakers favored pushing for the relocation of the tolls closer to the Delaware border again.
“That way, they wouldn’t lose any revenue,” Councilman George Patchell said.
Another request that came from Register of the Wills Michael Dawson and Judge of the Orphans Court Carolyn Crouch was a reworking of a bill from last year that passed the House, but died in a Senate committee.
The bill asks for an increase in travel allowance for the Orphans Court from $780 to $1,600, effective Dec. 3, 2018. It also seeks pay of $7,500 in fiscal year 2017 and $8,750 in fiscal year 2018 and each subsequent year, to be paid quarterly by the county.
It also seeks to add Cecil County to a subsection of the law that allows Wicomico County to make an Orphans Court judge who has completed at least 12 years in office to be eligible for a pension. But, there was discussion about exempting Orphans Court judges from the mandatory state retirement system because they don’t work 500 hours per year. The proposal is not final yet.
County officials also agreed to support four issues that are priorities of Maryland Association of Counties for the 2017 session. They include continuing to regain lost county revenue diverted to the state from the highway user revenue funds, strong state funding for school construction, balanced release of police body camera video and support for local zoning control for new energy facilities that use solar power. For years, the state has preempting local zoning for large-scale power plants, but recent actions appear to consider any energy generation facility, regardless of size.
Cecil County officials are requesting state legislation next year on a variety of issues, including allowing package liquor stores to hold tastings on their premises.