ANNAPOLIS — Local golf courses seeking to extend the hours they can serve alcohol cleared one more hurdle Wednesday as the Howard County Delegation approved legislation on the matter.
The bill, which still has to be approved by the General Assembly, would change the state law regulating liquor licenses for golf courses in the county. Currently, licensed venues can only serve alcohol from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. The bill would change the hours from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
"This is about having our golf courses in Howard County being able to compete to get charity events and other group outings," said Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat and co-chairmman of the delegation.
Some Howard venues say the current law has been problematic for booking special events that start before 11 a.m., especially when competing with venues in jurisdictions where alcohol can be served earlier.
Guzzone said that other jurisdictions that allow golf courses to serve alcohol at earlier hours have never had reported evidence of abuse.
The delegation unanimously voted to send the bill onto the General Assembly for approval. Delegations are usually given local courtesy, so the bill is likely to pass.
A bill being introduced by state Sen. Allan Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, also received unanimous approval from the delegation. The bill would allow the Howard County Board of Education to waive the $250 workers' compensation insurance coverage fee state law requires the board to charge employers who choose to take on unpaid student interns for work-based learning programs.
"I've been told by some of our mentorship teachers that (fee) has caused an impediment," Kittleman said. He explained that it doesn't make sense to charge employers who are willing to do the school system and students a favor.
Though Kittleman originally planned on the bill to be a local bill for Howard, he said it will likely become a statewide bill because Carroll County also wants to be included. He noted that the law already allows Allegany and Cecil counties to waive the fee. Other counties may sign onto the bill as it moves through the General Assembly.
The delegation also voted to approve four requests for state bond funding, totaling $930,000. The bond bills include $500,000 for construction of the new Roger Carter Recreation Center in Ellicott City; $150,000 for renovations of historic Carroll Baldwin Hall in Savage; $150,000 for rehabilitation of South Branch Park in Sykesville; and, $130,000 for rehabilitation of an assisted living facility for disabled people in Columbia.
"This is the second year in a row that we've done a project to support the refurbishment of an existing home that is used to care for individuals with disabilities," Guzzone said, noting that "this is exactly how (bond) money should be used."
Guzzone added that he was particularly happy about being able to provide bond money for Carroll Baldwin Hall.
"The money that has been allocated to them in the past has really spurred community efforts to get things done," he said, explaining the community has contributed its own time and money to perform renovations and repairs the bond money hasn't covered.
The only delegation member present for the meeting who voted against the bond bills was West Friendship Republican Del. Gail Bates.
"I'm going to vote no because of the state's budget problems," she said. However, Bates noted if the legislature chooses to fund bond bills, she would like Howard County to get its share.
Kittleman also noted he is against funding bond bills this year, but he voted for the delegation's bills because "there's no reason for Howard County not to get some."
The delegation still has more bills to vote on, including a proposal to authorize nonprofit veterans groups and volunteer fire departments to hold casino nights as fundraisers, and will meet again Feb. 8.
Guzzone said that three more local bills may be filed. If so, a public hearing will be scheduled on the bills, which include: a proposal to allow Howard County restaurants to sell alcohol in a growler, which is a container they fill up with tap beer for people to take home; a bill that would authorize Howard County sheriff's deputies to enter into a collective bargaining agreement; and a proposal to find a one-time fix to the liquor license law that would not allow Merriweather Post Pavilion to host Wine in the Woods while renovations are going on at Symphony Woods Park.