Some Harford bills move, others stall as 2016 General Assembly session winds down

Bill to track heroin overdoses withdrawn after legislators, health officials reach agreement

A heroin bill has been withdrawn; the newest movie theater being built in Harford County is slated to have beer, wine and liquor sales, provided the legislation that would allow them passes the Maryland State Senate, and a bill designed to resolve municipal election ties such as the one affecting Aberdeen's City Council has passed the House of Delegates and moved to the Senate.

Those moves, and others on bills supported by Harford County legislators, come as the scheduled April 11 adjournment of the 2016 Maryland General Assembly session in Annapolis looms.

The heroin bill, House Bill 15, was sponsored by Harford County Republican Dels. Kathy Szeliga and Andrew Cassilly to give local law enforcement more complete data on the number of drug overdoses with the requirement that medical personnel inform law enforcement within 48 hours of treating a person for a drug overdose.

The bill is one of three sponsored by Cassilly and Szeliga to fight the heroin epidemic in Harford County.

Cassilly and Szeliga announced Tuesday that HB-15 had been withdrawn, however, "after it became clear that a [reporting] program could be instituted without legislation," according to a news release.

No action has been taken on a second heroin-related bill, HB-24, since a Feb. 2 hearing before the House Health and Government Operations Committee. The legislation affects those who administer Narcan to revive a person suffering from an overdose by requiring those rendering aid to contact emergency services.

House Bill 34, which would have established criminal penalties for dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of a methadone clinic, died Feb. 15 after receiving an unfavorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.

Liquor bills

Fallston developer Michael Euler Sr. and his partners in Fallston Village Center LLC, who own and are overseeing the redevelopment of the Fallston Mall at Route 1 and Route 152, have lobbied for legislation that would create a license to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in movie theaters.

A seven-screen movie theater is slated to open in the mall, which has been renamed Fallston Village Center, by early this summer.

"It is first-run [movies], upscale, and we hope to have beer, wine and liquor," Euler said.

HB-892, and its Senate companion, SB-795, would give the Harford County Liquor Control Board the authority to issue a Class MT, or movie theater, license to a movie theater owner.

The House version is sponsored by Harford County's eight-member House delegation. It passed March 15 by a 135-2 vote and has been assigned to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

The Senate version is sponsored by the county's three senators. It passed 46-0 March 9, and it was assigned to the House Economic Matters Committee the next day.

The legislation requires the theater owner and staff to go through alcohol awareness training; the owner must show he or she has made an investment of at least $250,000 in the facility; drinks can only be sold in single-serve containers on the premises between 4 p.m. and midnight when the theater is open.

Alcoholic beverages must be sold from a counter separate from where popcorn, candy and non-alcoholic drinks are sold, according to the legislation.

"The trend is to have beer, wine and liquor available in cinemas going forward," Euler said.

If the either bill is approved, the Fallston theater would be the first in Harford County where alcohol is sold.

"I liked the idea that people could get a drink and take it to their seat and watch a movie," Euler said.

Nearly every space in the mall has been leased to a tenant, either new or existing, except one, and Euler hopes to have the mall ready, with a refurbished parking lot, by Memorial Day.

"It's pretty aggressive, but I think we can make it happen," he said of the time frame.

Additional liquor-related bills include HB-1051, sponsored by the Harford House delegation, which would create a Class CC, or community college license, to allow for sales of beer and wine during community events at Harford Community College.

The House version passed 133-1 March 14, and it has moved to the Senate. The bill was assigned to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee March 21, according to the General Assembly website.

The Senate version, SB-916, sponsored by the Harford senators, passed March 15, 46-0, and it has moved to the House. It was assigned to the House Economic Matters Committee March 21.

HB-969, sponsored by the House delegation, applies to maximum distances between establishments that sell alcohol and public or private schools.

Licensed establishments in Harford County must be at least 1,000 feet from a school, and they must be at least 300 feet apart in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, according to the current law.

Operators of a business in a municipality can appeal the distance restrictions to the liquor board, and HB-969 expands that appeal process to establishments in the county, according to western Harford Del. Rick Impallaria, the Republican chairman of the Harford House delegation.

"[We'll] just make it a countywide bill, so it can be handled at the liquor board where it's easier for the public to come out to hearings on the issue," Impallaria said.

The bill passed the House 135-2 March 15, and it is scheduled to go before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee for a hearing today (Friday).

HB-806, sponsored by Impallaria, increases the majority of annual fees paid for various classes of liquor licenses.

The price increases vary from as little as $25, from $225 to $250 for a seven-day Class C-1 beer and wine license, to $1,000, from $10,000 to $11,000 for a stadium beer, wine and liquor license, according to the legislation.

Impallaria said he does not expect the bill, which was heard before the House Economic Matters Committee Feb. 22, to pass during this year's session, but it will be revised during the summer.

"We'll be able to sit down with them and really devise a way that the fees are more fair and equitable for the different establishments," Impallaria said of liquor board officials.

The Senate version, SB-1088 sponsored by the Harford senators, was heard before the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee March 15, but no further action has been taken.

Election ties

Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, whose district includes Aberdeen, is sponsoring HB-852 to require municipalities to devise a procedure to handle ties in elections for municipal officials.

The fourth seat on Aberdeen's four-member City Council has remained vacant since last November's election, when candidates Stephen Smith, an incumbent councilman, and Sean DeBonis tied for fourth place with 655 votes.

The city charter does not contain a provision for handling a tie with a remedy such as a runoff election, so Mayor Patrick McGrady has spent months trying to appoint someone to the fourth seat, subject to council approval.

The council rejected McGrady's first two nominees, and city officials are looking at ways to amend the charter to handle election ties.

Lisanti's bill would be a remedy from the state. HB-852 passed the House March 17 134-0, and it was heard before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Thursday afternoon.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
81°