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A Miner Detail: The 2019 Annapolis Session Winners and Losers [EXCERPT]
April 12, 2019
MYMCMEDIA: ‘ETHICAL ROT’: FRANCHOT DECRIES BILL THAT STRIPS HIM OF ALCOHOL REGULATION
March 29, 2019
Comptroller Peter Franchot said Friday his 60-member enforcement division will not be switched to a new commission that will oversee alcohol regulation in Maryland.
“I can emphatically state that is not going to happen,” Franchot said in an interview with MyMCMedia.
Franchot hinted that he could pursue the matter in court, but beyond that he was not specific.
“We’re considering different options right now,” said Franchot, a Democrat. “It’s an unfortunate intrusion into the powers of the tax agency.”
The switch is part of a bill the Democratic-majority General Assembly passed and Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed.
On Thursday, the legislature overturned Hogan’s veto.
One of the chief proponents of the legislation is Sen. Ben Kramer, a Derwood Democrat.
Kramer said Franchot had written every member of the General Assembly indicating his lack of support but that he would support the will of the legislature.
“Evidently that wasn’t factual,” Kramer said of Franchot’s insistence that the Field Enforcement Division would move from the Comptroller’s Office.
“I guess he’s not respecting the will of the legislature. It’s disappointing to hear, but not surprising to hear in light of his arrogance throughout this process. It’s not surprising at all,” Kramer said.
The legislation creates an Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, a five-member panel appointed by the governor with the advice and the consent of the Maryland Senate. The commission would take over Field Enforcement Division officers who regulate alcohol and tobacco. The comptroller would continue to regulate petroleum.
The transfer has been estimated at about $4 million a year by the legislature’s nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services. Franchot has estimated the cost at closer to $50 million.
Franchot cannot take the matter to referendum. Since 1978, the Maryland Constitution prohibits taking alcohol regulatory matters to referendum, he said.
He said he has heard from Democrats who told them that House Speaker Mike Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. have insisted the caucus support the bill.
“They told me, ‘I don’t agree with it. I don’t understand it. I like cold Maryland beer,’” Franchot said. If the lawmakers fail to follow to vote as ordered, their own bills would be jeopardized, he said.
“It’s ethical rot at a minimum and corruption on the other side,” Franchot said. “… It’s all about who’s under their thumb.”
The comptroller blamed the legislation on his advocacy for craft beer. He also has a good working relationship with Hogan, a Republican.
But Kramer insisted the law was about public health and safety.
“In the legislation, there are requirements and standards of this new commission’s responsibility to formulate best practices from other states, other countries, on issue of public health and safety in addressing licensing issues and inspections,” he said.