New Offensive Aimed At City Law Violators

Litterbugs, Parking Scofflaws Escape Fines

October 17, 1990|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

If the state's cities and towns have their way, finding, charging and fining people who break municipal laws will become easier and more effective.

In its annual General Assembly lobbying effort, the Annapolis-based Maryland Municipal League is expected to push for measures that would enable city and town governments to have an easier time catching litterbugs, parking scofflaws and other minor lawbreakers.

"Since municipal infractions were enacted 12 years ago, towns have been having problems with people who, for whatever reason, fail to show up in court," said Jon C. Burrell, the league's executive director. "What we'd like to do is put a little more teeth into the existing laws."

Carroll's municipalities don't make large amounts of money from fines collected from the small-time lawbreakers. And it can often cost more than the amount of the fine to charge and prosecute offenders, some town officials say.

"Sure, (toughening laws) is welcome," said Lloyd R. Helt Jr., Sykesville mayor and an alternate member of the league's legislative committee. "This is important to us. Sometimes it costs us more in attorney's fees to get someone than we can collect in a fine."

The push for a strengthening of Maryland's municipal infractions statute is one of two bills the league hopes to introduce during the 1991 legislative session. Burrell said the league also will propose a technical revision to the state's zoning code that would give towns and cities more flexibility in determining zoning variances.

The two bills are not the only issues the league will concern itself with this season. Indeed, at its annual legislative conference in Easton, Talbot County, at the end of the month, more than 250 municipal leaders are expected to offer support to several other issues, Burrell said.

The league plans to seek more state financial and educational assistance toward mandatory recycling programs. Those state-mandated programs -- which all Maryland municipalities must have in place by 1994 -- so far have received little state money or technical support, Burrell said.

"I'm concerned that, at this time, there doesn't appear to be any funding coming from the state," he said. "We'd like to see the state create a clearinghouse for information and establish a grant and aid program."

Recycling is a hot issue throughout Carroll, and most municipal leaders here say they welcome a push for more state help.

The MML also intends to seek more state aid to municipalities in general, especially when it comes to state-mandated programs that require local governments to foot the bill.

"The bottom line is that federal grant funds have dried up," said Neal W. Powell, Taneytown's manager. "And just like the federal government told the states, the state is telling us. They don't really seem to care where all the money is going to come from."

The league's push for more help in recycling and other state-mandated programs and in fighting municipal lawbreakers is a marked contrast from last year's legislative agenda.

For the 1990 General Assembly session, the MML fought for -- and won -- about $2 million in law enforcement money. It was distributed to 83 municipalities -- five in Carroll -- throughout the state.

The league's attempt to initiate a 5 percent tax on videotape rentals was defeated last year.

Overall, Burrell said, the league has been successful in Annapolis over the years. Since 1980, the MML has seen 46 -- about 50 percent -- of its proposals make it into law.

All eight of Carroll's municipalities are members of the league. The county's delegation will meet tomorrow night to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

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