Politicians, lobbyist and anyone else interested in the Maryland General Assemby gathered in Annapolis for the start of the 2016 session.
Carroll County's legislative delegation decided Friday morning to sponsor a number of local bills, potentially easing their passage through the state legislature.
Among the bills the 11-member delegation will sponsor are a bill requested by the county State's Attorney's Office that would transfer child support enforcement personnel from the State's Attorney's Office to the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration, a bill that would allow turkey hunting on Sunday on private property in Carroll County, a series of bond bills for capital projects in Carroll, and two bills regarding liquor licensees — one that would allow businesses, including restaurants, wineries and clubs such as American Legion posts, to open at 8 a.m. on Sundays; and another that would make it easier for liquor stores to host small tastings.
All legislation the delegation approved for sponsorship was requested by local agencies or organizations. Local bills sponsored by the delegation typically pass the General Assembly relatively easily, said Del Susan Krebs, R-District 5.
Not every bill that was requested will be sponsored.
A bill requested by the county's Board of Commissioners — taking the power to fill commissioner vacancies away from the county's party central committees and requiring that a special election be held instead — was the subject of debate before the delegation voted against sponsoring it.
The bill would have been based on statewide legislation passed in 2014 that opened the door for charter counties to decide to host special elections to fill their own vacancies instead of relying on central committees to fill the spot, Krebs said. But many members of the delegation voiced concern about the details of the legislation, including the timeline for the election and who would be eligible to run.
"I was ready to vote for this until I heard the commissioners speak on it," said Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, referring to a public hearing on the issue in which he said Commissioner Richard Rothschild said that the special elections would only include members of the party of the person vacating the seat.
"This isn't Communist China," Hough said. "You don't just get to run one party in an election."
Although Krebs said the commissioner was not speaking for the board and was not fully aware of the regulations for how the election would be run, other members of the delegation said they were worried about what taking the role away from the central committees would do to those bodies.
"It's a thankless job, you work very hard and this is the one thing that you get to do," said Del. April Rose, R-District 5, who sat on the Carroll County Republican Central Committee from 2004 to 2010.
Another bill, brought forward by Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, called for a limit of two consecutive terms for members of the Carroll County Board of Education. The legislation was tabled until the delegation can get feedback from the public on the bill.
Shoemaker said he had received a lot of positive feedback on the bill since he announced his intention to file it in December but, because of when he decided to pursue it, it was not included in the group's public hearing on requested bills, held ahead of the legislative session.
"For us to simply take it up and vote it out before hearing from the community could create a lot of ill will in Carroll County," said Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9A.
Sen. Gail Bates, R-District 9, agreed with the proposal to delay a decision until more is known about where the public, and the members of the school board, stand on the issue.
"Otherwise you run the risk of having opposition at the [bill] hearing and you look like a fool," she said.
Del. Kathryn Afzali, R-District 4, also withdrew a bill request that would have made elected officials in towns with fewer than 10,000 people exempt from having to comply with state ethics disclosure guidelines. A representative from the state's ethics administration would be available for those officials who have concerns about the ethics requirements, Krebs said.
After the legislators again look over the bills the delegation voted to sponsor, they will be formally filed and given a tracking number before being read and assigned to a committee.
Bills the delegation will sponsor:
License beverages: Allowing Class B, Class C and Class D liquor license holders to open at 8 a.m. on Sundays (requested by Carroll County Licensed Beverage Association)
License beverages: Creation of a new tasting license for Class A beer, wine and liquor license