Montgomery County delegates have voted to support legislation barring tax exemptions for private clubs that limit their memberships on the basis of race or sex.
The bill, sponsored by Del. Stuart Bainum, faces an uphill fight in the county's seven-member Senate delegation, which must approve it before it is sent to the General Assembly floor. The Senate delegation previously endorsed the bill, but only after a protracted fight that resulted in the removal of country clubs from the list of organizations regulated under its provisions.
This week, the House delegation voted to return the bill to the Senate delegation with country clubs reinstated. An amendment introduced by Del. Luiz Simmons, which would have limited the bill to those clubs that receive more than 20 percent of their income from business sources, was defeated.
Bainum's bill would prohibit any private club in the county from receiving an exemption from county and local amusement, admissions and property taxes if it limits its memberships on the basis of race or sex. More than 100 private groups in the county, from the all-male Jaycees to the county's posh country clubs, would be subject to the measure's requirements.
Simmons had proposed his amendment, which would have acted as an umbrella for a number of county groups, after some members of the delegation expressed concern that organizations such as the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Women's Club might lose their tax-exempt status because of what he termed "harmless, noninvidious" discrimination. The House delegation defeated the amendment after Bainum indicated he would refuse to support an altered bill.
Bainum also has indicated that he would withdraw his support from any bill that would exclude country clubs from its provisions.
The House delegation also threw its support behind legislation restricting the county's housing authority, paralleling action taken by the County Council last week and effectively ending a six-month fight over measures intended to restrict the agency's operations. The legislation now goes to the county's senators, who are expected to approve it.
The bills approved this week would require the Housing Opportunities Commission to hold a public hearing 15 days before making a decision about any publicly assisted housing, and instated a new interviewing process--including a public interview--for the selection of commission members.
Similar public hearing guidelines are included in the council's housing policy.
Legislation requiring the housing commission to be subject to council or delegation budget review was defeated last week, along with three other housing bills.