Bill to permit Sunday auto sales gains


A bill to allow Sunday car sales in Howard and Anne Arundel counties was approved by the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the state Senate yesterday. But it is likely to meet a storm of opposition when it reaches the Senate floor next week.

The Howard County delegation is sponsoring the bill to accommodate CarMax, a used-car "super-store" owned by Circuit City that plans to open its sixth outlet in the country on 49.5 acres at the Freestate Development off U.S. 1 in Savage.

CarMax has promised to bring at least 350 jobs to Howard County but says it needs Sunday sales to make the business feasible. Under state law, Sunday car sales are allowed only in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

If the Sunday sales bill fails, CarMax has said, it is likely to open at a site in Northern Virginia instead.

"We need this bill," Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Republican representing southeastern Howard County, said in an interview yesterday. Despite opposition from current dealers in Howard, he said, the county's legislative delegation "is fully committed to getting this bill through because it means 350 well-paying jobs."

Other Baltimore-area legislators fear that Sunday car sales in Howard would put pressure on them to allow Sunday sales in their jurisdictions, which dealers in those areas oppose.

Before the bill was approved, Anne Arundel County senators attached an amendment that would allow dealerships in their county to sell cars on Sundays, too. That move, the legislators said, was an attempt to keep Anne Arundel dealerships competitive with Howard County's.

The committee voted 7-3, with one abstention, in favor of the amendment and 8-3 in favor of the bill. There are no Howard members on the committee.

"Our car dealers oppose this bill," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an Anne Arundel Democrat, who nonetheless pushed the amendment. "They don't want to be open on Sundays."

But if Howard dealers are allowed to open on Sundays, he said, Arundel dealers effectively will be compelled to be open.

The bill is expected to go the Senate floor by Wednesday. If it passes the Senate, it will move to the House of Delegates.

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