Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Alcohol Tax: Who’s Standing Up for the Disabled?

By Aaron Kaufman.

The Bill Bronrott, Verna Jones,(D-Baltimore) and Rich Madaleno alcohol tax bill (HB 832, SB 717) was introduced recently. The bill is named after the amazing disability activist Lorraine Sheehan who passed away recently. The House bill has 41 sponsors and the Senate bill has 8. These are wonderful numbers and reflect the widespread belief that the alcohol tax should be raised to support people with Developmental Disabilities and those recovering from addiction.

I believe that by declining to sponsor the legislation the following members of the Montgomery County Delegation put the desires of the alcohol lobby ahead of the vital needs of people with Developmental Disabilities:

Kramer D-14
Garagiola D-15
King D-39

Kaiser D-14
Rice* D-15
Barve D-17
Hixson D-20
Barkley D-39

The views of these delegation members are counter to those of the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Carroll County Times and Maryland Diamondback. (A person knows an idea is meritorious when college students are willing to pay more for their beer!) In addition, the alcohol tax increase is supported by 83% of Marylanders according to a recent Gonzales Research Poll. I want to extend particular kudos to Delegates Frick and Gilchrist for sponsoring the legislation because it is always difficult for freshman legislators to support legislation their committee chairman, in this case Delegate Sheila Hixson, is very much opposed to. I am especially disappointed in Delegate Kumar Barve’s decision not to sponsor the legislation. One would have hoped that he would have used his position as House Majority Leader to advocate for this legislation that benefits the most vulnerable in our society. In addition, he chairs the Ways and Means subcommittee on Revenue so one would expect that he would support a measure to bring additional revenue to the state’s depleted coffers.

Sadly, my friend Sheila Hixson remains opposed to the legislation. I hope she however will do the honorable thing and let the measure have an up or down vote this year. To do otherwise would be anti-democratic. I hope her Senate counterpart Ulysses Currie (D-25) will do the same. I urge all readers of MPW to contact their legislators to express support for this common sense legislation. HB 832/SB/717.

* Despite his opposition to the alcohol tax increase, Delegate Rice is developing a thoughtful alternative.