Tip jar bill is passed

April 10, 2004|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - After an impassioned argument by Sen. Donald F. Munson, Washington County's tip jar gambling bill received final approval Friday from the Maryland General Assembly.

Munson, R-Washington, said the legislation was crucial to preserving strict accountability over $83 million per year in tip jar gambling in the county.

"If we don't pass this bill, that's going to allow all that gambling to be under the table, underground," he told members of the Senate on Friday.

The legislation clarifies that groups whose members operate tip jars can't become tip jar suppliers.

Supporters of the bill argued that there must be a barrier between wholesalers and operators because reports from the two groups are compared in order to detect fraud.


The Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association, which sought to become a wholesaler, fought the legislation.

Association President Lou Thomas accused Munson of backing the legislation just to put the group out of business.

"This isn't about integrity. It's about revenge," he said.

Another provision in the bill helps association members because it lifts a $250 cap on the amount of profit that taverns and bars can make from each tip jar.

In the Senate on Friday, two senators questioned the tip jar bill, saying they had been told it would circumvent the association's ongoing appeal of being denied a wholesaler's license.

"Look folks, this argument is a red herring, just like the piece of paper you received," Munson said, holding up a red leaflet distributed by the Maryland Licensed Beverage Association.

Thomas said Munson misled senators by denying that the issue is the subject of an administrative hearing.

The bill passed 38-0.

Munson called the legislation "the second or third most important bill we've ever passed in Washington County" in his 30 years as a legislator.

Delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank, said he was glad to see the legislation pass after it came three votes away from failing in the House of Delegates.

"I commend Senator Munson for his leadership on this issue," he said. "The industry made a concerted effort to kill it in both houses. I certainly appreciate all the work Don (Munson) put into it. He deserves a lot of credit for that."

After the bill received tentative approval in the Senate on Friday, Munson asked the Senate to suspend the rules and take a final vote immediately instead of waiting until Saturday under normal practice.

The maneuver prevented opponents from tacking amendments onto the bill that might have hurt its chances for passage before the session ends at midnight Monday.

"The only reason we did that was to keep you from having a heart attack," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, said with a laugh.

The Senate also gave tentative approval to four other Washington County bills Friday. They will:

- Set up a Water and Sewer Infrastructure Commission to study the long-term needs in Washington County.

- Require an owner or supervisor at a county liquor store to attend an alcohol awareness program.

- Prohibit the county liquor board from issuing a license to someone who owes court fines.

- Clarify that money from the Washington County building excise tax may be spent on higher education as well as on elementary and secondary education.

The Herald-Mail Articles