April 10, 2017
Thank you for reaching out to my office during the 2017 Legislative Session. As always, District 39 residents are well informed and interested in the issues being considered in Annapolis. Your thoughtful insights are very much appreciated. This is my ninth year serving on the Economic Matters Committee and seventh year as Chair of the Alcoholic Beverages Subcommittee. My subcommittee continues to try to update Maryland’s laws regarding alcohol. As Chairman, I sponsored several statewide bills as well as others that relate solely to Montgomery County. Let me mention a few of my bills that will become law.
A repeat bill from last year is HB 42 – Alcoholic Beverages – Class I Distillery Licenses. HB 42 as passed makes major revisions to Class I Distillery Licenses by allowing rectifying, blending and bottling at the distillery. It allows samples to be mixed with other products and removes the production cap related to sales. HB 42 also makes changes to sampling, sales and hours of operations. Congratulations to all of our distillers who worked hard on this legislation. This legislation will allow our distillers to grow and thrive. A technical bill that passed, HB 252- Alcoholic Beverages – Liquor and Wine clarifies, in law, that Liquor and Distilled Spirits are the same.
Two of my local bills that passed are HB 315 – Montgomery County – Alcoholic Beverages – Contracts to Sell Liquor for Off-Premises Consumption (MC 18-17) and HB 397 – Montgomery County – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses (MC 17-17). HB 315 will allow the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) to contract with private beer and wine stores in the county to also sell liquor. At the current time, liquor can only be purchased at the DLC stores. HB 397 allows a Class 7 Micro-Brewery to obtain a permit for a second location to brew and bottle the same malt beverage from their original site. I submitted this bill for Denizens Brewery in Silver Spring. They are doing well but need more space to make their product.
Believe it or not, I actually sponsored non-alcoholic bills. After working on it for four years, HB 5 – Private Passenger Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance – Enhanced Underinsured Motorist Coverage was finally approved by the General Assembly. Basically, HB 5 allows the consumer to purchase additional insurance against an underinsured motorist. It provides better protection and allows full coverage for all damages. I also succeeded in passing a collective bargaining bill to help our state employees. HB 852 – Courts – Action for Violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement or Breach of Duty of Fair Representation – Limitations Period. HB 852 simply reduces the time period from three years to six months for reaching a decision on breach of duty of fair representation. It will encourage all parties to settle administratively without going to court.
Listed below are successful bills that were major wins for Maryland citizens:
· After five years, we finally passed the earned sick leave bill, HB 1- Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. Under HB 1, Marylanders will earn paid sick leave if they work at least 12 hours a week at a business with 15 or more employees. Employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work with a maximum of 40 hours per year. 488,000 Marylanders will qualify for earned sick leave. If a business has less than 15 employees, Marylanders will earn unpaid leave. Another 205,000 Marylanders will qualify for unpaid leave. Employees are also allowed to swap shifts with co-workers without losing leave. If a business offers at least five days of leave (like paid vacation) they are covered. HB 1 passed the House by a vote of 88-51 and the Senate 29-18.
· Another hot topic was the Fracking Ban. HB 1325 – Oil and Natural Gas – Hydraulic Fracturing – Prohibition passed the House by a vote of 97-40 and the Senate 36-10. HB 1325 simply places a permanent ban on fracking. Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo deserves a lot of credit for his hard work to get the bill out of the House and passed by the Senate. Governor Hogan has already signed the bill into law.
· HB 978 - Protect our Schools Act of 2017 was another bill that generated a lot of emails. HB 978 establishes guidelines for how we measure the quality of our schools. For too long, test scores have been the primary measure of school quality. HB 978 limits the use of test scores to no more than 65% of the metric used to measure school quality. The bill outlines what should be done when schools are not meeting the needs of our students but bars certain extreme actions. The bill allows the state to focus on interventions that are frankly more effective and less charged. Local school districts will maintain significant control over their schools. The final version of the bill passed the House 87-50 and the Senate 32-15.
· Finally, the House and Senate agreed on major changes to a Class 5 Brewery License. HB 1283 – Alcoholic Beverages – Class 5 Brewery License passed the House 119-15 and the Senate 45-1. HB 1283 makes numerous changes to on-site sampling and sale of beer by a Class 5 Brewer in the State. The number of barrels for on-site consumption increases from 500 to 2,000 barrels. Hours of operation will be from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM all week. Established Class 5 Breweries can keep their current hours and be open till midnight Friday and Saturday. Contracting out is now allowed which means smaller/new breweries can have another brewery make some of their beer up to a certain limit. These changes will allow Diageo to build a “tourist attraction” brewery in Baltimore County to brew and sell Guinness products. This is a big win for economic development in Maryland.
Let me wrap up my letter talking about the state budget. Like last year the budget was passed about two weeks before the end of session. Our $43.5 billion budget met both goals of the Spending Affordability Committee. The budget leaves a $100 million fund balance and reduces the structural deficit from $400 million to $38 million. It also maintains $860 million in the Rainy Day Fund preserving nearly $1.0 billion in cash reserves. State support for public schools will be almost $6.4 billion. Monies for local school systems will increase by $96.4 million or 1.7%. The budget fully funds Thornton formulas and provides $28.2 million of new funding for grants to school systems with declining enrollments. Montgomery County will receive an additional $24.4 million for their K-12 public schools. State support of Maryland’s public four-year colleges and universities grows by $32.7 million allowing undergraduate tuition rates to a modest 2.0% increase. Community colleges will also limit tuition increases to 2.0%.
Montgomery County did extremely well in the Capital Budget receiving $194.7 million for local projects. Montgomery County Public Schools will receive $55.7 million for school construction projects with 10% of the total school construction monies still to be allocated. Higher education facilities in Montgomery County will receive $103.4 million for construction projects. Universities at Shady Grove will receive $88.7 million for their Biomedical sciences and Engineering Education Building and Montgomery College will receive a total of $14.7 million for several projects on their three campuses. A complete chart showing all projects is attached.
Many thanks for taking the time to contact my office. I always appreciate hearing from my constituents. During the interim, my legislative aide, Rebekah Wallace, can be reached by email at Charles.Barkley@house.state.md.us or by phone at 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3001.
Delegate Charles Barkley