Carroll Legislators Study Budget, Drug Legislation

Bill Would Fine Parents For Children's Violations

March 13, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Parents, already liable for damage or injury caused by their children, could also face civil fines if their children violate drug laws, under legislation presented by a Carroll delegate Tuesday.

DelegateRichard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, testified before the House JudiciaryCommittee on his bill to authorize fines of up to $5,000 for parentsof children under 18 who violate Maryland's Controlled Dangerous Substances law.

In another drug-related bill, Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, is co-sponsoring legislation to require elected officials and candidates for public office who file financial disclosure forms also to submit a substance-abuse disclosure statement.

Under Matthews' bill, parents could request a hearing and defend themselves beforea judge.

"It's another way of making the parent take a closer look at their children and a look down the road to see what could happen," Matthews told the committee. "I don't think $5,000 is too much to be a good deterrent."

But the committee apparently disagrees. It voted, 21-1, last year to kill the same bill, with Matthews, a committee member, voting for the bill.

On Tuesday, no one else testified on the bill, and no panel members questioned Matthews. The legislation also had no proponents or opponents last year.

A state Department of Juvenile Services spokesman said the agency did not take a position on the bill because it would not affect the department.

In testimony last year, Matthews described the bill as a "logical extension" of laws requiring parents to pay restitution for delinquent acts committed by their children, such as stealing or vandalism.

Matthews' bill, technically, would not involve restitution, but would fine parents for their children's behavior, a plan with little support amongjudicial officials and lawyers.

Juvenile Services reported that about 1,900 juveniles were deemed delinquent for a drug offense in fiscal 1990.

Haines' bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Howard Denis, R-Montgomery, would require elected officials and candidates to submit results of a blood or urine drug test with the State Ethics Commission bythe same time financial disclosure statements are due.

The commission would be required to regulate the testing and decide what information must be disclosed.

State employees, doctors and other blue- and white-collar workers already are being tested for drugs, the co-sponsors told the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee last week.

"Up until now there has been one area of endeavor that has been viewed as immune to the pitfalls of drug abuse -- elected officials in government," according to their written testimony. "Just because they make the laws does not mean they are above the laws. Leadership starts at the top, and elected officials must be held accountable to the public they represent."

EEA, which rejected the legislation last year, has yet to vote on the bill.

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