County mulls which bills to get be­hind

Com­mis­sion­ers to re­view pro­pos­als for leg­is­la­tion with state del­e­ga­tion

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By TAY­LOR DEVILLE tdev­[email protected]­

Ahead of the 2019 Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion, the St. Mary’s County com­mis­sion­ers pre­lim­i­nar­ily re­viewed nu­mer­ous leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als Tues­day morn­ing, in­clud­ing pro­pos­als re­lated to liquor li­censes, em­ploy­ment in med­i­cal canna- bis grow­ing fa­cil­i­ties and com­mer­cial busi­ness tax in­cen­tives.

Of the 13 pro­posed bills, three seek to ad­dress is­sues re­gard­ing the sale of al­co­hol, and re­ceived a mixed re­sponse from the com­mis­sion­ers.

The first, pro­posed by a pri­vate ci­ti­zen and busi­ness owner, would al­low drive-through win­dow al­co­hol sales if the driv­ethrough al­ready ex­ists “and if the owner had a prior li­cense for driv­ethrough win­dow al­co­hol sales” in the county, ac­cord­ing to a memo.

The county has “roughly six or seven” op­er­at­ing drive-through win­dows, Ta­mara Hilde­brand, an ad­min­is­tra­tor with the al­co­hol bev­er­age board, said.

The county pro­hibits liquor stores from open­ing new drive-through win­dows, but ex­empts ex­ist­ing stores.

Hilde­brand said she did not sup­port the pro­posal “from an en­force­ment stand­point,” and said it was not brought be­fore the al­co­hol board.

“It’s hard to eval­u­ate some­one through a driv­ethrough win­dow,” Hilde­brand said, re­gard­ing some­one’s age and so­bri­ety.

Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R) was sin­gu­lar among the com­mis­sion­ers in his sup­port of the bill.

The other pro­pos­als would re­move lan­guage which pro­hibits restau­rants or clubs from serv­ing al­co­hol on Sun­days, which “cur­rently, I guess, ev­ery­one is in vi­o­la­tion of,” county at­tor­ney David Weiskopf said. “It’s just a cleanup.”

That pro­posal is meant to con­form to the leg­is­la­tion passed in 1971 re­mov­ing all pro­hi­bi­tions to Sun­day sales in St. Mary’s County.

An­other piece of leg­is­la­tion brought forth by the al­co­hol bev­er­age board could al­low Class C per diem al­co­hol li­cense hold­ers to pos­sess an­other li­cense of a dif­fer­ent class.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions can re­ceive a Class C li­cense, but “the prob­lem is when some­one that al­ready has a liquor li­cense serves on one of those boards, it pro­hibits them from get­ting this li­cense as well,” Weiskopf said.

O’Con­nor did not sup­port ei­ther of those pro­pos­als, say­ing that they “ba­si­cally al­low for the carte blanche” sale of al­co­holic bev­er­ages from “hun­dreds of es­tab­lish­ments,” while the pro­posed bill re­gard­ing drive-through sales

was a “lim­ited amount of win­dows.”

O’Con­nor, on be­half of Char­lie Mat­tingly, who owns a cannabis dis­pen­sary in Me­chan­icsville, in­tro­duced a pro­posal re­gard­ing the age of grow­ers per­mit­ted in a cannabis grow­ing fa­cil­ity, which would re­quire em­ploy­ees at such a fa­cil­ity to be at least 18 years old. Mat­tingly hopes to ex­pand into grow­ing mar­i­juana.

State law dic­tates that em­ploy­ees 21 years or older be per­mit­ted within cannabis pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties and dis­pen­saries, but “does not speak on the age of grow­ers,” Weiskopf said.

O’Con­nor said Mat­tingly looks at the is­sue as an “eco­nomic driver,” open­ing up his oper­a­tion to more young adults as he plans to ex­pand his fa­cil­ity to em­ploy pos­si­bly hun­dreds more grow­ers.

Although Com­mis­sioner Pres­i­dent Randy Guy (R) sup­ported the bill, com­mis­sion­ers Mike He­witt (R) and Eric Colvin (R) did not sup­port it, while Com­mis­sioner Todd Mor­gan (R) said he wants to see more co­he­sion from An­napo­lis on the bur­geon­ing in­dus­try be­fore mak­ing any de­ci­sions.

O’Con­nor noted that there seemed to be “sup­port among the del­e­ga­tion” for the pro­posal.

To re­tain in­no­va­tive start-ups, the St. Mary’s County De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment sub­mit­ted leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing tax in­cen­tives for such com­mer­cial busi­nesses, in­clud­ing one that would re­duce their per­sonal in­come tax, by up to $1,000, for start-up chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers and five of their em­ploy­ees, although He­witt sug­gested that num­ber be in­creased to nine em­ploy­ees.

In the cur­rent lan­guage of the pro­posed bill, De­part­ment of De­fense-re­lated busi­nesses are pro­hib­ited from the tax break, although avi­a­tion, un­manned au­ton­o­mous sys­tems, agri­cul­ture and aqua­cul­ture, “com­mer­cial­iza­tion of de­fense tech­nolo­gies” and ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing are listed as tar­geted in­dus­tries for the tax re­duc­tion.

The DoD was ex­cluded be­cause “we’re try­ing to diver­sify our econ­omy,” Chris Kase­lemis, di­rec­tor

of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, said.

“Those are­nas are so tightly knit­ted,” Mor­gan said about DoD and other avi­a­tion en­ti­ties in the county. “I’m very con­cerned how you would sep­a­rate the two of them.”

“That would be a chal­lenge, I agree,” Kase­lemis said.

The com­mis­sion­ers

largely sup­ported the pro­posal, although O’Con­nor said he was “on the fence” given the amount of other tax-in­cen­tive pro­grams in the county. The com­mis­sion­ers also sug­gested that lan­guage re­gard­ing the el­i­gi­ble in­dus­tries be changed to al­low them more dis­cre­tion.

The com­mis­sion­ers did not sup­port a se­cond

eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­posal re­gard­ing a tax re­duc­tion for com­mer­cial prop­erty own­ers within des­ig­nated growth ar­eas for ren­o­vat­ing, re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing or up­grad­ing their busi­nesses.

The pro­posal will still go be­fore the del­e­ga­tion, but without a let­ter of sup­port from the board. The com­mis­sion­ers said the pro- gram should wait un­til the up­dated zon­ing or­di­nance is in place, with O’Con­nor call­ing it a “cart-be­fore-the­horse sce­nario.”

The pub­lic will have an­other chance to hear about all of the pro­pos­als dur­ing a joint meet­ing be­tween the com­mis­sion­ers and state del­e­ga­tion next Tues­day, Dec. 11.

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