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What to watch for in 2020 General Assembly: Carroll County funding proposals, extended liquor sale hours

In the new year, politicians representing Carroll County in Maryland’s General Assembly may vote on bills that could provide funding to local businesses, extend alcohol sale hours and allow more public school employees to join a union.

State senators and delegates convened at the Carroll County office building Dec. 2 in Westminster to hear requests at the Carroll County delegation’s annual public hearing. Constituents shared their wishlists for Maryland’s 2020 legislative session with Sen. Katie Hester, D-9; Del. Trent Kittleman, R-9A; Del. Susan Krebs, R-5; Del. Warren Miller, R-9A; Del. Jesse Pippy, R-4; Sen. Justin Ready, R-5; and Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-5, according to Ready.

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Ready said in an interview that he and his colleagues put on a hearing each year so the requests of citizens can be aired publicly before politicians head to Annapolis. Ready also said that having a hearing locally is advantageous to folks who would not wish to travel to the state capital.

Ready and Shoemaker invited constituents who could not attend the Dec. 2 hearing to send them their thoughts by emailing Justin.Ready@senate.state.md.us or Haven.Shoemaker@house.state.md.us.

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That meeting with constituents raises some potential initiatives to watch for as Carroll County’s representatives convene in Annapolis for the start of the General Assembly session on Jan. 8.

Businesses, nonprofits request funding

To make planned improvements to its facilities and security, the Carroll County Agriculture Center is seeking a $500,000 bond bill from the state.

The Ag Center gained backing from Carroll senators and delegates to make the request of the governor, according to Heather Kuykendall, the center’s board secretary. The center wants a chain-link fence around the Buck Miller Arena for security; large cement blocks to use as barriers to vehicles for events; a generator for Shipley Arena in case of a prolonged power outage; and large ceiling fans for Shipley to keep people and animals cool in the summer heat, Kuykendall said in an interview. The center would also like to resurface a gravel driveway with asphalt and to repair roofs on the existing building, she said.

“The Ag Center has gotten bond money from the state in the past, but it’s been a long time,” Shoemaker said in an interview.

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Penn-Mar Human Services and Change Inc. have merged into a single development disabilities service provider that is seeking funding to assist with costs associated with the merger.

Representatives from Penn-Mar and Change Inc. came to the hearing to request support for a $50,000 bond bill, according to Ready. The money would help cover the estimated $100,000 cost for technology improvements such as new equipment training and information technology support. If Penn-Mar and Change receive the bond bill, the company would have to match $50,000. Penn-Mar Executive Director Michael Shriver wrote in an email the company has guaranteed to make the match.

“That’s a way we can really help a local organization," Ready said.

Westminster Rescue Mission came to the hearing requesting public facilities bond money for a drug treatment program specifically targeting women, according to Shoemaker. The rescue mission is in the process of renovating a building on its campus to house the program, which aims to hold 22 beds, Shoemaker’s chief of staff Molli Cole said. The rescue mission did not offer a specific figure for the request, but came to the hearing to alert the delegation to the future need, according to Cole.

The mission’s executive director, Carol Bernstein, wrote in an email that the renovation was made possible by a grant the mission received from the Hogan administration in the past, but they’ve run into complications. The renovation is well underway, but additional funding is needed to address sprinkler and life safety systems in the building, Bernstein wrote.

Alcohol sales may continue past 1 a.m.

The county Liquor Board is proposing that Carroll County establishments be permitted to sell alcohol until 2 a.m.

Currently, bars, restaurants and taverns may stay open until 1 a.m. with a county liquor license. Ready said the Liquor Board started making moves to extend the time after consulting with vendors.

“I think generally I’m open to it,” Ready said, but he added that he has not made a final decision.

Ready noted that neighboring counties, both within the state and in Pennsylvania, sell alcohol until 2 a.m. Ready suggested it might be safer to extend the time in Carroll so drivers are not traveling under the influence to other jurisdictions where alcohol is served later.

Shoemaker expressed a desire to level the playing field for Carroll business owners.

“The concern is that puts our bar owners at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding jurisdictions,” Shoemaker said.

He also echoed Ready’s concern that drivers will cross the county line to consume alcohol and drive back home under the influence.

Request for JROTC instructors to get union option

Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) came to the hearing requesting the delegates and senators support a bill so that Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructors can join unions.

Currently, JROTC instructors, of which there are four in CCPS, are full-time employees, but they are not included in one of the five employee associations. If a bill is passed, the JROTC instructors would have the option to join a union and be represented in collective bargaining.

Ready noted other counties allow for this and said he would generally support a bill as long as the JROTC instructors are not forced to join a union. Shoemaker said he was “not adamantly opposed.”

“The Board of Education has indicated that this is important for them ... I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in their way,” Shoemaker said.

The General Assembly convenes Jan. 8. Ready said he does not anticipate any difficulty in getting Carroll County requests approved.

“I don’t think any of these measures will encounter any resistance,” Ready said.

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