Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) is defending his office’s role in alcohol regulation, just as a task force formed to review the agency’s work is set to meet for a final time in Annapolis Monday.
Before recommending removing regulatory authority from the comptroller’s office, The Task Force State Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety, and Public Health should “offer the public a more compelling rationale for doing so than simply antipathy toward one politician who offends other politicians,” Franchot’s Chief of Staff Len N. Foxwell wrote in a letter to the commission chairman on Monday morning.
The commission is set to meet to discuss recommendations at 10 a.m. Monday, which would likely lead to legislation in the forthcoming General Assembly session.
Former House majority leader D. Bruce Poole (D) is chairman of the panel.
The task force was created by a measure sponsored by Dels. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) and Warren E. Miller (R-Howard and Carroll) last legislative session, as Franchot thumped for a different measure, his Reform on Tap proposal, which would have loosened the state’s laws governing craft breweries.
The task force has broad authority, including to examine what is the proper agency to regulate alcohol in the state. The panel has looked at issues including the societal ills of alcohol consumption, and its legislative creators have criticized Franchot for accepting campaign donations from industries his office regulates.
For several reasons, Foxwell wrote to Poole, regulation should stay as it is. As the state’s tax collector, the comptroller’s office has access to confidential business tax records, which are easily reviewed in regulatory matters, something not possible for a new outside agency, he wrote. The comptroller’s office also regulates tobacco and motor fuel, meaning inspectors often conduct multiple random inspections of a business at one time; the regulatory authority of the comptroller over tobacco and motor fuel have not been challenged.
Foxwell wrote that the comptroller’s office also had not been consulted about the potential costs of establishing a new state agency to oversee alcohol enforcement and complained that the commission’s work has been a mystery, noting the lack of a public agenda for Monday morning’s meeting.
“Aside from the frustration shared by certain legislative leaders over Comptroller Franchot’s advocacy of the craft beer industry, his willingness to speak out against monopolistic corporate trade practices and other acts of perceived rebellion against Annapolis orthodoxy, what, exactly, is the point of all of this?” Foxwell wrote in the letter.