Howard delegation OKs school board salary increase, liquor license restrictions

Howard County's delegation in Annapolis voted Wednesday to sponsor bills raising the salary for county Board of Education members and limiting the number of liquor licenses available in the county. 

The bills were the final two on a roster of local legislation proposed by Howard County's senators and delegates.

Delegation members also discussed plans for a House bill to clarify referendum procedures, following District 9 Sen. Allan Kittleman's proposal last week of a similar bill in the Senate. District 12B Del. Liz Bobo plans to sponsor the House bill, which would require county elections officials to work with citizen petitioners to prepare and certify a petition for referendum, with consultation from a legal authority, within 10 days of such a request.

The Board of Education bill would raise the annual salary of elected board members by $3,000 beginning next year. Members, who currently earn $12,000 a year, would make $15,000. The chairman of the board, who currently earns $14,000 annually, would receive $17,000. 

The bill also would also create a $5,000 college scholarship for the student member of the board. 

The bill, which originally increased board member salaries by $6,000, was amended to include a lower pay raise after some delegation members expressed reservations about the increase. 

Bobo was the only delegation member to vote against sponsoring the final bill, citing concerns about health benefits for retired teachers. Until those issues are smoothed over, she said, she wouldn't vote for an increase to school board salaries.

"I think [health benefits] have been handled abysmally, and so that is my reason," she said.

The other bill approved for sponsorship by the delegation would limit the number of liquor licenses issued in the county to one per every 4,000 residents. 

An amendment to the bill would waive the restriction for existing shopping centers as well as proposed shopping center developments of 200,000 or more square feet of commercial retail space. 

"Liquor stores are pretty much an anchor in any type of shopping center," and the bill would be too restrictive for developers of large centers, said District 13 Del. Guy Guzzone, who submitted the amendment. 

Bobo voted against both the amendment and the final bill. She said she felt the amendment weakened the bill's intent. 

The delegation also agreed to consider introducing two last-minute local bills. One would give Howard County the authority to require massage parlor licensees to display a photo on their license in an effort to combat human trafficking, and another would give the County Council the ability to raise compensation for Liquor Hearing Board members, which is currently set by the state. 

The delegation will hold a public hearing on the two late-filed local bills Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the George Howard building in Ellicott City. 

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