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Jamie Raskin, Maryland State senator for the 20th District (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

Senate committee prepared to reject Baltimore liquor board appointees

Three controversial appointments to the Baltimore City Liquor Board could be voted down when the Senate Executive Nominations Committee meets later today.

That’s the word from committee chairman Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin who said that a continued stalemate between Gov. Larry Hogan and members of the Baltimore City delegation including Sen. Joan Carter Conway could result in defeat of the appointees.

“There’s a strong possibility that could happen tonight,” Raskin said. “We are listening closely to our colleagues from Baltimore City and there’s simply no way those people are going to be confirmed if the Baltimore City delegation is unified against them.”

The appointees include Benjamin A Neil, Douglas E. Trotter and Elizabeth A. Hafey.

All three were appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and have been the target of strong criticism from city residents and legislators who accuse the board of reversing decisions of previous liquor boards and siding with problem bars and liquor stores.

Two weeks ago, Conway, a Baltimore senator and chair of the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, lashed out at the appointees and the governor and declared the nominations dead. Hogan responded by withdrawing the name of one alternate commissioner the Senate committee approved of, who also happened to be the treasurer of Conway’s campaign committee. In turn, Conway responded with legislation requiring Hogan to submit new names by April 12 or see the authority to make the appointments transferred to the mayor and City Council.

That bill had a hearing and a final vote all within a week of being introduced and is now in the House of Delegates.

Since then, a spokesman for Hogan said the governor is not inclined to withdraw his nominees.

“The governor has absolutely no intention of submitting any other names,” said Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman said in an interview a week ago, adding that the governor believes all three are “well-qualified.”

“If the Executive Nominations Committee disagrees, they should vote them down,”  Mayer said at the time.

Raskin said he’s still hoping for a compromise.

“I have no idea what has taken place between the city delegation and the governor,” Raskin said. “I was hoping they could sit down and arrive at some kind of intermediate position but as a matter of collegiality and deference to our colleagues’ expertise, there is no way we can go forward with a nomination if they’re not supporting them.”

The full hearing should be available online starting at 5 p.m.

Raskin vowed that the committee discussion that typically follows the hearings will be streamed live online and archived on the General Assembly website. His promise comes two weeks after he was asked by The Daily Record about how the debate over the city liquor commissioners took place only after the cameras and audio had been turned off. It was the first time the committee had turned off such a feed this year.