Convention Center Bill Passes House

ANNAPOLIS- A bill in the General Assembly that would extend a funding mechanism for the proposed expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City breezed through the House this week and awaits a vote on a cross-filed bill in the Senate.

House Bill 1064, which, if approved would enable the local governing body of a code county, in this case Worcester, to impose a tax on food and beverages in a resort community of all or a portion of the revenue generated was dedicated to the expansion of a convention center in the community. The bill, introduced in the House by Delegates James Mathias and Norm Conway, both D-38B, passed a vote by the entire House this week after a hearing on the bill last Thursday.

The bill will now be heard in the Senate, although no hearing date has been set. For years, there has been an additional one-cent per $1.00 tacked on the sales tax rate in Ocean City to help pay the town’s portion for the most recent expansion of the convention center 11 years ago. The supplementary sale tax is set to expire in 2015, but with Ocean City’s convention center possibly slated for another major expansion in the next few years, House Bill 1064 would provide a mechanism for extending the funding source.

The last major expansion of the convention center was completed in 1997, and already the facility has outgrown its ability to draw and retain some of the larger conventions and events. The town has commissioned a private firm to study of the expansion of the convention center, which would be funded by the supplementary sales tax.

Meanwhile, another bill of local interest started to move this week. House Bill 612, which would establish commercial waterfront property as a subclass for property tax assessment purposes passed a vote by the full House. A hearing on the sister bill in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-38) was scheduled for a hearing yesterday.

The intent of the bill, which was borne out of the working waterfront commission, is to protect working commercial waterfront areas and the indigenous seafood industry from soaring tax assessment increases by assessing waterfront property based on its use rather than its market value. Essentially, it would allow commercial waterfront areas to be assessed based on what is actually going on at them rather than what they could be in the future if they were redeveloped.