Democrats, Liquor, Unions, and the Status Quo
You might have missed this from last week, but Democratic leadership in Montgomery County is doing all they can to keep the status quo on liquor laws, as Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Magazine:
State delegates representing Montgomery County decided Friday not to take any action to alter the structure of the county’s troubled Department of Liquor Control.
Rather than vote on two pending bills, the county members of the House of Delegates voted Friday to withdraw a bill that would set up a state-mandated task force and instead send a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett asking him to to set up a task force to study how best to alter the department, including possibly fully privatizing it.
The draft version of the letter also asks Leggett and the County Council to “provide the DLC with the necessary management and financial resources” to improve the department to address criticisms “that we believe are valid.”
As we have reported before, Montgomery County’s liquor distribution is controlled by a government monopoly that is codified in Maryland state law. The issue came up at the Montgomery County Delegation level because some Democrats were working to finally allow for private liquor sales in the county.
The County Delegation punting the issue back to the County of course makes absolutely no sense, for the following reason:
County leaders have maintained throughout the DLC reform debate that the more than $30 million that the DLC generates in annual profits for the county needs to be protected. Leggett and council members have said losing the ability to use that revenue to help pay for the county’s more than $100 million in bonds could impact the capital budget and delay school construction projects.
Or at least it makes no sense until you remember this:
The county task force solution appeared to appease members of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, the labor union that represents DLC employees as well as 8,000 other county employees.
Legett has already said that he would be willing to consider privatization of the county liquor concern if the $30 million in revenue can be offset. However, he’s not likely to do that because that would make the MCGEO mad. The MCGEO is the employees union for Montgomery County government employees and any the elimination of the liquor monopoly would mean job cuts for MCGEO workers. Never mind the fact that the elimination of these jobs could very well spur creation of exponentially more private sector jobs and opportunities in the liquor industry.
The Democrats handling of the Montgomery County liquor monopoly is somewhat stunning. In an era where Governor Larry Hogan is popular with voters across Maryland by making Maryland more business and consumer friendly, Montgomery County Democrats are staying with their entrenched ways of taking anti-business, anti-consumer stances to protect their political interests. The people of Montgomery County are going to take notice. There has been a lot of press coverage on this issue during this legislative sessions, and it is clear that the establishment Democrats seem incapable of reading the polls that show Governor Hogan’s rising popularity in their backyard. Their continued intransigence on this issue clearly shows the differences between Governor Hogan and the entrenched Democrats. And that has the potential to drive up turnout for the Governor’s re-election in Montgomery County which, math would dictate, would have the effect of electing a few Republicans and ensuring the Governor’s re-election.
For want of pleasing their unions, the Democrats are standing to lose an awful lot by protecting the liquor monopoly.