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Delegations split on meetings, but hear similar legislative requests

At the Carroll County Senate Delegation's public hearing last week at the County Office Building in Westminster, state Sen. Joseph Getty, a Republican who represents District 5, opened the session expressing disappointment that the County House Delegation had decided to hold its own separate hearing the following day.

"I invited the House Delegation to participate, (but) they chose to meet on Saturday (Jan. 19)," said Getty, the outgoing delegation chairman who recently handed over the chairmanship to state Sen. David Brinkley, a Republican who represents District 4.

"I think that it's a disservice to the public to have to come out to two meetings," he said.

The delegations' sessions in January are designed for residents to discuss legislation that will be introduced during the 433rd session of the Maryland General Assembly, which convened on Jan. 9 and will conclude on April 8.

In previous years, it was customary for the two Carroll County delegations of representatives in the House and Senate to hold a joint meeting.

A spokesman for Del. Susan Krebs, a Republican who represents District 9B, said he was unclear why the Senate Delegation had opted for the Jan. 18 meeting — a Friday afternoon.

He said several members of the delegation had committee hearings they needed to attend that day, and factoring in rush hour traffic they could not have gotten to Westminster earlier than 7 p.m.

Krebs herself said it was important to have the House Delegation's meeting on Saturday, because more people were able to attend than on a weekday

As for the substance of the Senate group's meeting, the shopping list of legislation presented to the three-senator delegation — Getty, Brinkley and Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican who represents District 9 — by the Board of County Commissioners and various county agencies and nonprofits included some of the usual general and procedural requests.

Two county requests were for the issuance of county public facilities bonds and for changes to the procedure that the county must follow in carrying surplus funds from one fiscal year to the next.

Other bill requests dealt with issues more likely to be felt at a grassroots level.

For the fifth year in a row, the Carroll County Emergency Services, with the backing of the Board of Commissioners, proposed a gaming bill that would permit Carroll's volunteer fire companies to raise funds by hosting gaming events, such as casino nights and bingo tournaments.

In past years, similar bills have had varying levels of support, but never made it through the full Legislature.

Steve Wantz, president of the Carroll County Emergency Services Association, said volunteer companies in some of the counties adjoining Carroll are already permitted to hold gambling fundraisers, and they depend on them for their economic life blood.

"This will help us as citizens of Carroll County in terms of saving tax dollars, and we know there are lots of people who like to play bingo," said Jackie Jones, chairwoman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, in support of the bill.

That prompted Brinkley to reply to the Democrat with a quip, "When I meet with the governor next week, I can say we've got some bipartisanship going on out here."

Wantz said volunteer fire companies in other jurisdictions depend on gaming events to survive financially,

"It's something we seriously need in this county," he said.

The delegation voted unanimously to support the bill. Getty said that if they can get it passed in the Senate it should strengthen chances of getting through the House of Delegates as well.

The Senate Delegation also supported a request by the Carroll County Board of Education to mandate the inclusion of a non-voting student representative on the county school board. The county currently has a non-voting member, but the position in not formally codified.

"The students did a great job lobbying (for the bill) last year," Getty said. "We're not sure what derailed it, but we're hoping for smooth sailing this year."

Roland Meerdter, chairman of the Carroll County Liquor Board, requested legislation that would substantially increase the annual fees that liquor stores, bars and restaurants pay for liquor licenses.

The proposal has the backing of both the Board of Commissioners and the Carroll County Licensed Beverage Association.

Meerdter said the fee increases would not create a financial surplus for his agency.

"We just want to pay our way. I only have one inspector for the whole county," he added. "These (current) fees are from (President) Eisenhower's reign."

Representatives from Maryland State Chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association, an organization that promotes hunting education and the maintenance of a sustainable white deer population, joined with the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association, which advocates for hunters and gun safety, in requesting a bill to lengthen the deer hunting gun season deer and permit Sunday hunting.

E.W. Grimes, director of QDMA, said extending the gun season by two weeks and permitting hunting on several Sundays during the season would help manage the county's deer population, which one county resident described as, "out of control."

A spokesman in Krebs' office said the subsequent House delegation meeting went over many of the same bills as the Senate session.

Some of the other issues facing the delegations include proposals:

• to allow for the issuance of winery special event permits for farmers markets on one day each week

• to prohibit the state's Secretary of the Environment from adopting regulations requiring installation of a metering device on a private water or sewerage systems for the purpose of issuing fees.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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