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Lobbyists target tip jar bill

April 03, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Lobbyists are targeting legislation that supporters say is crucial to preserving Washington County's tip jar gambling regulations.

After the bill passed the House of Delegates last week with only three votes to spare, liquor industry lobbyists began working to defeat it in the Senate, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

"I am working very hard to make sure that will not happen," Munson said. "If we do not pass this bill, this'll be the end of tip jar regulations in Washington County."

Members of the Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association oppose the bill because it will block them from selling tip jar supplies.

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Washington County Gaming Director Dan DiVito has denied the association a wholesaler license because its members operate the jars.

In order to detect fraud, DiVito compares reports from wholesalers against those from operators, so it's important to have a barrier between the two groups, he said.

The association argues that the regulations still would be enforceable.

"For them to even hint there would be some wrongdoing is kind of ridiculous," Association President Lou Thomas said.

Meanwhile, the association has challenged the Washington County Commissioners' authority to deny the association's wholesaler's license application.

Jay Schwartz, a lobbyist for the Maryland Licensed Beverage Association, is telling lawmakers to vote against the local bill so as not to preempt an administrative law judge's decision.

"He's a good lobbyist. He's experienced. And he has a lot of friends," Munson said.

Munson said he has asked members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to advance the bill.

The commissioners, DiVito and local charities who receive tip jar proceeds all have sent letters to committee members asking for their support.

Chairman Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, said a vote on the bill, which was delayed from Friday, probably will take place early next week.

To become law, the bill must pass the Senate before the session ends at midnight April 12.

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