Annapolis Cabbies Object To Blood Test Legislation

September 18, 1990|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Annapolis cab drivers didn't find much to like last night about a proposed law that would require them to take blood tests.

Some drivers said they wouldn't mind taking the test, but objected to a clause that would require them to pay for it.

Others objected to the legislation on constitutional grounds.

"I don't see how waiving your rights and urinating in a cup isn't a violation of privacy," said Eve Birch, a driver for the Yellow Cab Co. "The people you are after are going to be prepared for these tests. I can't afford them."

FOR THE RECORD - Due to an editing error, a story yesterday about a proposed law in Annapolis involving cab drivers incorrectly identified the type of testing being considered.
The law would require cab drivers to take drug tests.

About 20 cab drivers and cab company owners turned out to oppose the legislation at a hearing last night before the council's Public Safety and Rules committees.

Speakers also complained that the legislation had no appeals process, and no provisions for rehabilitation.

Committee members agreed to table the bill last night pending a meeting between city officials and cab drivers and owners to work out a compromise.

The proposed legislation would be the first of its kind in the country, said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, chairman of the Rules Committee.

The plan, proposed by Alderman Wayne C. Turner, R-Ward 6, and Transportation Director James Chase, would require anyone applying for a taxicab driver's permit or getting one renewed to take a drug test. Cab drivers failing the test would have their permits suspended or revoked.

Stuart Comstock-Gay, director of the Maryland Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, has questioned whether the plan is constitutional.

But City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said last night he thinks the plan is constitutional, because the drug tests would be part of an annual physical that already is required.

Hodgson said drivers would have to waive their right to confidentiality with their private physicians, who perform the physicals. He said a court might find that unconstitutional, but predicted the courts ultimately would rule in the city's favor.

Turner and Chase proposed the legislation after as many as four cab drivers were found to have previous drug records earlier this year, Chase said.

One of the drivers complained to Turner, and because the city has no formal policy on substance abuse by cab drivers, the drivers were reinstated. As a result, other cab drivers denied in the past also received taxicab permits, Chase said.

Turner agreed to reconsider one part of the law after the first speaker, Yellow Cab Co. owner Charles Peters, objected.

That part would suspend or revoke permits for drivers convicted of either two felonies, or one in the previous five years, or three misdemeanors, or one in the previous year.

Hodgson and Chase said the current law is too vague, giving Chase the authority to suspend or revoke permits for "bad moral character."

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