February 22, 2019

Kramer Seeks Reform in Maryland Alcohol Regulations

Senator Ben Kramer (District 19 – Montgomery) detailed his proposed legislation to reform state alcohol regulations in a Thursday afternoon press conference. Joined by Delegate Warren Miller (District 9A – Howard and Carroll), Chairman Bruce Poole (of the Maryland Task Force to Study State Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety), and several state public safety advocates, the panel discussed the benefits of the potential legislation.

Kramer’s legislative package includes two primary bills which seek to better incorporate the study of public health into state alcohol regulation and to reform ethics regulations within the state alcohol industry.

To better manage and regulate alcohol policy throughout Maryland, Senate Bill 703 establishes the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Motor Fuel Commission. The bill transfers the duties of the Field Enforcement Division of the Office of the Comptroller to the new commission and ensures that public health and law enforcement officials will play a new integral role in the regulatory process for alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel regulation.

Senate Bill 687 would prohibit lobbying organizations from making contributions to elected and appointed officials who regulate the alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel industries. The legislation would apply to all state and local elected officials including both municipal officers along with local alcoholic beverage licensing boards.

Kramer introduced the proposed regulations as a result of the findings of the Task Force to Study State Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety, and Public Health. The task force was created by the bipartisan legislation that he introduced in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session along with Delegates Mary Ann Lisanti (District 34A – Harford) and Warren Miller (District 9A – Howard and Carroll).

The task force was chaired by former Western Maryland State Delegate Bruce Poole and charged with looking into both alcohol regulation and the impact of alcohol on public health. “It is stunning, the national impact of alcohol on Millennials,” said Poole. “Maryland is behind,” he followed. “The most damning fact is that alcohol related deaths have gone up by nearly 300% in Maryland.”

In describing the legislation, Kramer stated: “The bills are a work product of the task force.” Noting the importance of the legislation in decreasing alcohol-related deaths, he followed: “(This legislation) provides for the health, welfare, and safety of state residents.”

“This is truly a bipartisan piece of legislation and work,” said Delegate Warren Miller. He continued: “We (the General Assembly) have never had an opportunity to look at the health aspects of alcohol regulation.”

Both Senate Bills 687 and 703 are assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and are scheduled for a hearing on Friday, February 22nd. House Bill 703 (the identical corresponding House cross-file to Senate 703) is assigned to the House Economic Matters Committee and also scheduled for a hearing on February 22nd.

As of today, 46 days remain in the 2019 Maryland General Assembly Session. All legislation must successfully pass both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates by Sine Die on Monday, April 8th to be sent to Governor Hogan to be approved or vetoed.