If there is anything I’ve learned after I started paying closer attention to the Maryland General Assembly legislative session two years ago, it’s that the legislature is very mysterious and confusing at times. Or most of the time.
I was keeping one eye on my twitter feed on the hectic last day of the session, while knowing that it would probably be just as well to wait until it was all over and then see where things stood. I was definitely rooting for certain bills to pass at the last minute.
Then I noticed a rather intriguing tweet. I had been following a thread from Montgomery County State Senator Jeff Waldstreicher chronicling the Senate session throughout that last day of the session, and he tweeted this gem:
“We allowed Sunday Sales of alcohol in Baltimore County (all other counties already allow).”
I did a double-take. I didn’t know that Sunday alcohol sales were even under consideration. And I also didn’t know that Baltimore County was the only county in Maryland still not allowing Sunday sales.
I wanted to know more about this intriguing development but was surprised not to hear anything in the days after the legislative session ended. I set about searching and browsing twitter but found no mention anywhere of this bill. I did find a March video segment from WBAL talking about the legislation, and the General Assembly of Maryland website showed that Senator Bobby Zirkin had introduced a bill (SB386), which passed the Senate 44-3 on March 14, 2019. The Bill did not pass the House, instead receiving an unfavorable report from the House Economic Matters Committee.
It turns out that on the very last day of the session, the Senate added Sunday alcohol sales to a bill written to allow motorcycle sales on Sunday in Baltimore County—basically, one of those last-minute tricks to resurrect bills that are otherwise DOA. Legislators also tried it unsuccessfully this year with Delegate CT Wilson’s legislation to raise the statute of limitations for civil suits for adult survivors of sexual abuse; the Judiciary Committee in the House added an amendment to pro-life Senator Justin Ready’s “Laura and Reid’s Law,” which called for enhanced penalty for violent crimes against pregnant women.
So, “Baltimore County and Harford County – Motorcycles – Sunday Sales” (HB507) had passed in the House 137-1 on February 28. In the Senate, the Bill emerged on the last day of the session with a favorable report from the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Then Senator Zirkin saw his chance (or so I imagine—I don’t really know the back story, only what I can trace on the General Assembly site!). He offered the amendment for alcohol sales on Sunday, and the Senate adopted it 36-9. The Bill then passed the Senate as amended, 41-4.
Very crafty! But alas, we haven’t heard about the passing of this Bill because it ultimately failed. Being different from the original House version, the HB507 had to go back to the House for approval. The last status of the Bill was “House Refuses Concur Senate Amendments; House Requests Senate Recede.” In other words, the House did not accept the new language, and there was likely no time (or the will at the late hour) to appoint a committee to work out the differences between the two versions.
So, I guess us Baltimore Countians will have to remember to buy alchohol on the other six days, or shop at Sunday liquor stores attached to Class B-licensed restaurants, such as The Crackpot. We’ll see what happens next year!