County commissioners finalize 2020 legislative package

Sen. Arthur Ellis, left, and Dels. Debra Davis, Edith Patterson and C.T. Wilson, all Charles County Democrats, discuss legislative proposals for the 2020 General Assembly session during a public hearing with the Charles County Board of Commissioners last week.

Nine legislative proposals have made the final cut to be included in the Charles County Board of Commissioners’ legislative package for the 2020 General Assembly, out of a total of 35 submitted by county agencies, organizations and individuals.

The finalists include two bills related to alcoholic beverage laws. One of the bills would allow the owners of small family farm wineries to own businesses that sell alcohol. The wineries would not be allowed to sell directly to the stores; as with current law, all transactions would involve selling to and buying from a distributor.

Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles) and Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) agreed to cross-file the bill in their respective chambers, which could speed the review and approval process during next year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to start on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The other alcohol bill included in the county’s legislative package would exempt holders of Class D beer and wine licenses from the county’s liquor license quota if they want to acquire a different type of Class D license. Under the current law, liquor provisions are considered to be separate licenses rather than amendments to existing ones.

The commissioners also approved a bill to amend the state’s public safety code by adding Charles County to the list of counties that are exempt from requiring property owners to obtain a building permit before converting part of an existing building for agritourism uses, provided that occupancy is capped at 200 people. The county’s Rural Planning and Zoning Task Force proposed the bill as a way to encourage the growth of agritourism businesses in rural parts of the county.

Other bills that passed muster included a proposal to fund broadband services through riverboat slot machine revenue, an ordinance to impose penalties on illegal dumping, authorization for non-management county employees to engage in collective bargaining and the creation of special taxing districts to finance the construction of facilities such as a conference center.

Commissioner Amanda M. Stewart (D) was the sole vote against a bill that seeks to increase the amount of funding contributed annually to the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland to $125,000 per county.

The current state code mandates that Calvert County contribute $7,000 per year to the council, while Charles and St. Mary’s counties are required to pay $9,000.

Because the nine bills being included in the county’s 2020 legislative package involve amending existing state laws rather than proposing entirely new laws, the laws are expected to be passed and enacted without objections as what are often called “local courtesy bills.”

The commissioners voted on many of the bills to be included in the legislative package during a marathon public hearing with the county’s state house delegation last week. A handful were tabled for further review during an open session Tuesday afternoon.

The delegation identified eleven other bills as representing brand new laws that would have statewide applicability. While those proposals were not included in the county’s legislative package, individual delegation members might choose to sponsor them during the General Assembly session.

In previous years, the county commissioners had included both types of bills in the county’s legislative package and had let the delegation decide whether to introduce them as courtesy bills or as sponsored legislation. However, this year, Wilson asked that statewide bills not be included in the package.

Three bills proposed by the Charles County Sheriff’s Office — to prohibit marijuana use in correctional facilities, to allow judges to authorize officers to enter a home to serve a commitment order and to repeal a provision that shields court records related to extreme risk protective orders — were voted down by the commissioners.

The commissioners and delegates agreed that a trio of bills introduced by the Charles County branch of the NAACP should be handled at the county level by the county commissioners and the Charles County Board of Education.

The delegation also recommended that two bill proposals related to funding for the Southern Maryland Carousel Group be submitted as bond initiatives during a separate hearing to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Waldorf West Library starting at 5:30 p.m.

Twitter: @PaulIndyNews

Twitter: @​PaulIndyNews