Marriage fee hike submitted

January 24, 2001

Marriage fee hike submitted

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly voted Wednesday to increase the county's marriage license fee and give a property tax credit to firefighters.


State lawmakers also voted to make several small changes to local liquor laws, but rejected further changes to the six-year-old tip jar gambling law.

Lawmakers voted to submit a bill to hike the marriage license fee from $60 to $65 to raise money for CASA, or Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, a Hagerstown agency that provides shelter and counseling for people threatened by domestic violence.

Lawmakers also voted go give CASA the Washington County Commissioners' share of the fee, which is $5 per license. The Washington County Commissioners had proposed a $75 license fee, but lawmakers were concerned that was too high.


Del. Joseph R. Bartlett and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, Republicans representing Frederick and Washington counties, opposed any fee hike.

"I understand CASA's a worthy cause, but we keep sticking it to these young, starry-eyed couples," said Mooney, who is single.

Bartlett, who got married last year, said he believes a higher marriage license fee will deter people from getting married.

With the average cost of a wedding at $5,000 to $10,000, Del. Christopher B. Shank said he didn't think an extra $5 would stop anyone. Shank, R-Washington, is also a newlywed.

Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said the increased cost of a license would buy two Happy Meals at McDonald's.

"If they can't afford the $5 they probably shouldn't be getting married in the first place," McKee said.

Shank proposed the tax credit for firefighters. He got the idea from a similar bill passed last year for Cecil County, Md.

Local lawmakers unanimously approved the tax credit, which would only become effective if the Washington County Commissioners decide to use it.

Shank said the county could use the credit to boost morale and encourage more people to become volunteer firefighters.

"I would see this as an additional tool in their toolbox," Shank said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, who attended the meeting in Annapolis, said it's a good idea the commissioners will probably explore further.

The delegation also approved several changes to local liquor laws.

One bill would allow caterers to get temporary liquor licenses. Caterers asked for the license so they can have more control over events.

Another bill would eliminate prisoners from the population numbers used to calculate liquor licenses.

The rule of one license for every 1,000 people in an election district gives one precinct near the state prison complex south of Hagerstown an overly high number of licenses. The owner of McNamee's Tavern on Lappans Road pointed out the disparity to Shank.

A third bill would increase the number of liquor board members from three to five.

Although the bill passed the delegation by a vote of 5 to 2, it isn't likely to pass the Maryland General Assembly because both senators opposed the bill.

"I want it killed and when it comes to the Senate it's going to die," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Frederick/Washington.

Munson said more people on the Board of License Commissioners would hinder its ability to act quickly on decisions.

The proposal came from the Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association, which wants someone on the board who has past experience in the industry.

Local lawmakers voted down two proposed changes to Washington County tip jar regulations.

One would have allowed the Washington County Gaming Commission to share gambling proceeds with libraries. Some lawmakers were concerned that was a step toward giving gambling proceeds to government-funded agencies.

Another would have eliminated tip jar license fees and allowed the county to set the fees.

The delegation also voted to submit bills that will:

- Allow Prime Outlets to conduct outdoor exhibitions and sales.

- Increase the Election Board members' salary to $5,000. The board president would get $5,300.

- Increase the election judges' pay from $80 to $100 and chief election judges' from $100 to $125.

All the local bills must still be approved by the Maryland General Assembly before the session ends April 9.

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