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Tip jar legislation approved by House

March 26, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Tip jar legislation approved by House

ANNAPOLIS - Legislation that would increase by an estimated $1.35 million the amount of tip jar gaming proceeds distributed to charity through the Washington County Gaming Commission was approved by the Maryland House of Delegates Wednesday evening.

"We're 50 percent there," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, referring to the fact that the measure must now be approved by the state Senate.

The bill, which was approved by a 127-2 vote in the House, would require fraternal and social clubs to funnel all of their required charitable donations raised from tip jars through the Gaming Commission in the form of cash.

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Five of the six members of the county's House delegation voted for the legislation. Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, a strong advocate of the bill, was absent during the vote.

Clubs now are required to donate 15 percent of their gross gaming proceeds to charity. But only half of that has to be made through the commission. The rest can be made directly to nonprofit groups in the form of cash and in-kind services, such as donations of room space.

The legislation would keep required club giving at 15 percent, but eliminate direct cash and in-kind donations.

The Gaming Commission estimates it will have distributed $1.1 million in tip jar proceeds to nonprofit organizations, fire and rescue companies and charities for the budget year that ends this June 30. It estimated the legislation would increase the agency's distributions next year to $2.45 million.

Supporters said the legislation will save costs and eliminate the need for the Gaming Commission to determine what qualifies as an in-kind contribution.

But Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, who voted for the legislation, said he has concerns that funneling all tip jar contributions through the Gaming Commission takes away the flexibility for organizations to donate to individuals and groups that don't meet commission standards.

Other changes in the bill include:




- A measure that would permit members of the county Gaming Commission to serve two two-year terms. Supporters of the amendment said the current limit of one two-year term causes too much turnover on the panel.

- An amendment that would allow members of the Gaming Commission to serve as officers and directors of nonprofit groups, but only if those groups do no apply for gaming funds.

On Monday the House approved another piece of county gaming legislation that repeals the tip jar regulations' July 1, 1999, expiration date. That bill also goes to the Senate for consideration.

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