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Pr. George's Builder Charge Among Bills Passed

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 13, 2005; Page B05

Builders would pay a $6,000 surcharge for each house they construct in Prince George's County under a bill that passed in the final hours of the General Assembly session late Monday night.

The measure was one of many local bills that made their way through the legislature before the 90-day session came to a close.

Bills on the desk of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) would allow Montgomery County to install speeding cameras on some roads; force liquor stores in Prince George's to close at midnight; and let some fire and bomb investigators in Anne Arundel County make arrests without warrants.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) yesterday praised their respective delegations for their work. Prince George's and Montgomery each were allotted $30 million for school construction. The amount is three times what Montgomery received last year.

In addition to the $30 million for school construction, Johnson said, the county stands to gain an estimated $15 million from the building surcharge. The money would finance expansion of police and fire service in Prince George's. Builders pay a $12,000 per unit surcharge for schools.

Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Prince George's), who sponsored the legislation, said the funds would go a long way to help the county recruit officers and tackle crime.

"We're in the midst of a staffing crisis for our police department," he said. "One way to recruit is to provide officers with the best cars, the best technology and best equipment. This will help pay for those things."

Ross said it was a struggle to pass the bill, which was amended to reduce the surcharge from $8,000 to $6,000. Builders wanted the surcharge to exempt them from the adequate public facilities test imposed by the County Council last year. But an attempt to attach a "pay-go" amendment to the legislation failed. "Everybody got something they wanted," Ross said. "And the citizens got more money for police and fire."

Another anti-crime initiative would require liquor stores to close at midnight, instead of 2 a.m.

To get the measure passed, Sen. Leo E. Green (D-Prince George's) attached it to a bill to get rid of the old license for the now-demolished USAir Arena.

"I am proudest of the [bill] to close county liquor stores at midnight," Johnson said during a news conference at the State House. "After midnight, their parking lots become magnets for crime."

Amrik Singh Lemehi, owner of Tic Toc Liquors in Hyattsville, said he will lose about $2 million a year if the bill becomes law.

"This bill will lead to more crime and more tax revenue being lost," Lemehi said yesterday. Lemehi said a third of his revenue comes after midnight, when liquor outlets in the District close.

After several unsuccessful attempts in past years, Prince George's was added to the list of counties that prohibit nudity and sexual displays in establishments that sell alcohol. The legislation would require the county liquor board to revoke the license of businesses that violate the law.

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