Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Each year a pre-legislative public meeting is held to give citizens an opportunity to present concerns, make suggestions or ask questions of their Delegation. At this year's December 3 meeting, Senator George Edwards, Delegate Wendell Beitzel, and Mark Widmyer, Governor Hogan's Western Maryland liaison were present to greet a good showing of county residents anxious to interact with their representatives in Annapolis. Kim McMillan joined the team to record comments and assist with followup information.
Issues addressed included the economy and taxes, minimum wage, paid sick leave, fair scheduling, liquor laws, shoreline erosion, Wolf Den Run State Park, broadband, and Maryland television. A full audio recording can be heard here and a written summary is below.
Delegate Beitzel was recently re-elected to represent Garrett County for the next four years. The 2018 Maryland General Assembly marked his 12th year in the Maryland House of Delegates. Senator Edwards ran unopposed on the November ballot and will enter his next four-year term in the Maryland Senate.
Edwards shared that the commissioners requested a $72,500 bond bill for the Garrett County Animal Shelter for building upgrades and $40,000 for a dormitory roof repair at Garrett College, and another $60,000 for a Comprehensive Document Management System for Garrett College. The bond bills would have a 15-year life expectancy.
Another $1 million was requested to dredge the cove at Arrowhead in McHenry using a 50/50 matching grant.
Beitzel reminded everyone that he and Edwards are readily available and they welcome any comments or concerns.
Delegate Wendell Beitzel
800-492-7122, ext. 3435
Senator George Edwards
800-492-7122, ext. 3565.
Mike Bell was first to speak requesting the Delegation consider local and state economic issues. In light of recent discussion by the Board of Education considering school closings and consolidations, Bell suggested the wealth formula for Garrett County be looked at. "Nobody is addressing that distribution or allocation issue," said Bell, referring to a recent commissioners' meeting where the topic was raised. Bell also pointed out that Garrett County's accommodations tax lags behind other counties at 6 percent. The county is considering a 2 percent rise in the tax which could amount to an additional $800,000 going to the County's general fund. The average accommodations tax in Maryland is currently 5.9 percent. "Maryland is the 5th worst state for retirees," a fact Bell recently read about. "One of the major elements in that ranking is the way they treat retirement income versus some of the neighboring states." He said retirees may be relocating across state lines to Pennsylvania rather than Florida to simply protect their retirement dollars.
"What it all boils down to is they have fiscal notes," Beitzel explained in response to bills that would reduce tax consequences for retirees or veterans as an example. "What we look at is the total amount of what that impact would be on the state budget and the bigger the number is, the harder it is to get anything pushed through," Beitzel said some tax benefits have already been adopted for veterans incrementally. "I would like to ask you all to think about the idea of having a state tax study in the state of Maryland that can take a look at how our state and local revenue system has evolved," Bell requested. He felt it was important to understand how Maryland is raising money through taxes given the incremental changes of the state's economy and the demographic makeup of the state. Bell suggested the state is lacking and overall strategy with the last tax studies conducted 20 years ago. He underscored the importance of a tax system that is formed in fairness and competitiveness for jobs and families. Beitzel said he supports the tax on hunting licenses since it can amount to a significant amount in State and Federal funding for wildlife programs. Taxes on ammunition and gun sales go toward state budgets for wildlife management. "All of our DNR (Department of Natural Resources) opperations comes from that money," Beitzel explained. "Anything we do in excess has to come out of the general fund."
Debbe Owston, representing the Garrett County Liquor Board, shared several "housekeeping" requests with the Delegation. Her first request was to repeal a bill from 1947 that requires a one-year residency prior to applying for a liquor license.
Another request was to repeal a law that prohibits out-of-state license holders permitted to serve in "taverns" from being granted a liquor license in Garrett County. Also amending the draft beer license would allow applicants to choose an "option" to an existing or new applicant license rather than holding two separate licenses. Application fees would remain the same.
Owston also requested that nonprofits seeking a license to serve alcohol not be required to have a public hearing but allow new licenses to be granted in an administrative hearing. She also requested that nonprofits be able to make a request for serving at multiple events through a single administrative request and then notify the board as each licensed event is scheduled.
Tim Klein asked for clarification on COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations) regarding Deep Creek Lake. He shared that North Glad Cove has been closed off to 26-foot boats rather than setting restrictions based on a boat's size and weight. Klein asked for more specific guidelines for boat owners to avoid fines stemming from unclear restriction.