By Blair Ames, firstname.lastname@example.org
6:00 PM EST, January 23, 2013
The Howard County Delegation moved forward Wednesday a bill establishing tax credit for commercial redevelopment along Route 1, and delayed action on a bill allowing library employees the right to unionize.
During its first meeting in Annapolis of the 2013 legislative session, the delegation approved four county bills, five bond bills totaling $950,000 and held four other bills for further discussion. Bills approved by the delegation still must be passed by the General Assembly.
Two bills that received criticism at a recent public hearing — additional Sunday hunting days and noise levels at Merriweather Post Pavilion — were not on the delegation's agenda.
Steve Lafferty, county Director of Special Projects, said the tax credit proposal was generated with Route 1 in mind, but could be used in other areas. He said Route 1 has not seen the reinvestment in commercial properties needed to revitalize the corridor.
If passed, the bill would authorize the county to provide a property tax credit for a commercial property being renovated, upgraded or rehabilitated along Route 1.
The delegation decided to hold off on approving a bill that would allow library employees the opportunity to unionize.
David Nitkin, the county Director of Communications, said the bill was proposed with "fairness and equity" in mind. The county has nine other collective bargaining units for public employees.
Although the county proposed the bill, the Howard County Library System Board of Trustees have decided to remain neutral on the issue, according to county library president Valerie Gross.
Del. Liz Bobo, a Columbia Democrat, said she has been a longtime supporter of unions for public employees, but admitted she found it "peculiar" that the library's trustees have not weighed in on the issue.
If passed, Howard County would join Montgomery and Prince George's counties as the only counties in the state "with a union for library employees.
Del. Gail Bates, a West Friendship Republican, said the bill seems like "a parent giving something to a child that they don't want." At a public hearing in December, no library employee spoke in favor or opposition to the proposal.
The delegation approved $950,000 in bond bills for projects that will help fund the renovation of The Arc of Howard County's Homewood Road facility, construction of a playground at Blandair Park, construction of a Domestic Violence Center, renovations at the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, and preservation of the Historic Belmont Property.
The delegation also approved bills that will allow:
• Veterans organizations an opportunity to host one casino event a month.
• Retirement communities to apply for a beer, wine and liquor license to serve its residents.
• Certain license holders to sell wine in refillable containers off licensed premises.
The Delegation held the following bills for further discussion:
• A bill that would nearly double the salaries of each judge of the Orphans' Court for Howard County.
• A bill establishing that if the salary of lieutenants in the Howard County Police Department is increased, the salary of the Sheriff of Howard County shall increase by the same dollar amount.
• A bill that would allow the liquor board to grant a liquor license to a restaurant located no closer than 450 feet from a public school building. The current law requires restaurants be at least 500 feet from a public school.