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Timing angers lobbyist Hearing clashes with beginning of Passover


A lobbyist fighting Anne Arundel County's proposed anti-smoking bill said he will file a protest because the council insists on holding a hearing on the bill next Monday, the beginning of Passover.

Bruce C. Bereano, an Annapolis lobbyist representing the Tobacco Institute, said he would file his complaint today with the county's Human Relations Commission because the council refused his request to reschedule the hearing.

The Passover Seder, one of the most important observances of the Jewish religion, begins at sundown next Monday.

"A lot of business owners of the Jewish faith will not be able to attend" the hearing, said Mr. Bereano, who is Jewish and said he would not attend. "I think it shows a real insensitivity and indifference to the Jewish community living here in Anne Arundel County."

The anti-smoking bill, an amended version of legislation filed earlier this year, would ban smoking in businesses that employ more than 50 people. Nonsmoking sections would be mandated in restaurants serving more than 75 patrons.

Mr. Bereano said he believed the scheduling was inadvertent.

"I know not everybody has a Jewish calendar," he said. But he pointed out the conflict in a letter to the council and was informed that the meeting could not be rescheduled.

Council Chairman David G. Boschert said the council simply did not have time to put off the hearing.

"I polled all the members of the council, and it was the consensus of the council to go ahead with it," Mr. Boschert said. "The charter requires us to meet two legislative days a month."

Plus, he said, the council's plate is getting full. "We're getting into the budget cycle and we really have to go forward," he said. Once the budget is submitted April 30, most of the council's attention will be taken up with fiscal matters.

Mr. Bereano, in addition to filing his complaint, has vowed to mobilize rabbis and other leaders of the county's Jewish community in an attempt to pressure the council.

He said he will also contact the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in Washington to solicit its support and involvement.

"They wouldn't do it on Christmas. They wouldn't do it on Easter," Mr. Bereano said. "It's a real slap in the face of the Jewish community here in Anne Arundel County to say, 'Too bad, we're going to go ahead with this hearing.' "

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