Guzzone says session was 'absolute success' for Howard County

Only one bill sponsored by the Howard County Delegation failed to be approved before the General Assembly wrapped up its 2013 session Monday, April 8.

The bill would have given organizations the authority to hold casino events with a permit from the county, but the measure never made it past the House of Delegates' Ways and Means committee.

Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat who co-chairs the delegation, said Tuesday the 2013 session was an "absolute success" for Howard County.

Guzzone cited the passage of the wine growler and Merriweather bills along with six bond bills totaling $900,000 for county projects.

"I couldn't have been more pleased by the projects this year and the level of funding," he said.

State funding will support projects such as Blandair Regional Park, the Arc of Howard County's Homewood Road facility, Clarksville's Middle Patuxent Environmental Area and the county's Domestic Violence Center.

Howard County bills passed by the General Assembly include:

• A revitalization property tax credit aimed at property owners on Route 1 who have renovated, upgraded or rehabilitated their property.

• Authorizing restaurants with a refillable container license to sell wine in 17- to 34-ounce containers.

• Authorizing the county's library employees to form a collective bargaining unit.

• Allowing Merriweather Post Pavilion to produce sound up to 95 decibels within a quarter-mile radius of the property up to 11 p.m. The venue is not allowed to produce any amplified sound between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 9 a.m., except if the sound is due to an activity sponsored or authorized by the Howard County Public School System. Sound from school system events can start no earlier than 8 a.m.

• A raise for the Howard County sheriff from $85,000 to $97,000 beginning in 2018. The bill does not affect the sheriff's salary during the current term in office.

•A raise for the judges of the Orphans' Court from $8,000 to $10,000. The chief judge will received $11,500, up from the current $9,500. These raises will take effect at the beginning of the next term of office.

• Allowing a Class B liquor license be granted to a restaurant within 400 feet from the nearest point of a public school building.

• Authorizing the Howard County Board of License Commissioners to issue a Class C liquor license to a continuing care retirement community. The licenses allows for the sale of beer, wine and liquor for on-premises consumption only.

• Authorizing the state comptroller to issue a winery special event permit to a Class 4 county winery to sell wine at farmers' markets.

• Authorizing a farm brewery license to a county resident that holds no more than two Class B beer, wine, and liquor licenses.

Grace's Law passes

A bill named in honor of a Howard County girl who committed suicide after she was bullied online would make it a misdemeanor to repeatedly and maliciously use a computer or smartphone to bully someone under the age of 18.

The Senate last week gave final approval to "Grace's Law," which was introduced by Del. Jon Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat.

Grace McComas, a Glenelg High School student, committed suicide on Easter Sunday last year, after repeated cyberbullying through social media websites.

Sen. Allan Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, sponsored the Senate version of the legislation.

Kittleman said this bill was "one of the most important pieces of legislation" that he has worked on during his eight years in the Senate.

"This is landmark legislation for Maryland," he said.

Under the law, bullying someone under the age of 18 through a computer or smartphone could warrant up to a $500 fine or up to one year in prison.

Kittleman said he expects the law to be a proactive tool for law enforcement.

He believes once someone is confronted with the possible charges by law enforcement, they will end their bullying.

Delay on stormwater fee fails

A proposal sponsored by Howard County Sen. Ed Kasemeyer that would have delayed the implementation of stormwater fees until 2015 passed the Senate Monday, but never received a vote in the House.

Kasemeyer said residents shouldn't have to pay the fee on top of the gas tax increase July 1 as the state still recovers from the recession.

"Most importantly, it's a lot of money for most people," he said.

Kasemeyer said he is not opposed to the stormwater fee, but the public has not been given much notice that the fee is coming this year.

"I just think it's a lot for the average person to absorb at one time," he said.

Kasemeyer said he "didn't quite understand the lack of interest in the House" on the bill.

The Senate voted to approve the bill 34-13.

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