The Annapolis City Council's Rules Committee last night approved a plan to test cab drivers and owners for drug use but rejected a bill that would give city department heads job security.
The drug testing bill will be submitted for a council vote next week. The job security bill will be considered next month.
Alderman Wayne C. Turner, R-Ward 6, and Transportation Director James Chase proposed testing cab drivers and owners for drug use last year after several people applying for city taxicab licenses were found to have drug records. Industry officials have said the bill would set a national precedent.
The Rules Committee approved the bill, 3-0, after city officials and cab company owners recommended several changes.
Under the latest version of the bill, cab drivers would beable to decide when they will take the test. They also would be ableto have their private physicians administer it. The physician would then certify that the driver was not abusing drugs.
Under earlier versions of the bill, tests would have been performed by the city, which also could require random tests.
Turner also dropped a proposed fare increase.
The bill to protect department directors was proposed by Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8. Most department heads can be dismissed by the mayor without cause; under Moyer's bill, department heads could be removed only for official misconduct, conviction ofa crime or poor performance.
The council voted three years ago togive the mayor carte blanche to remove department heads.
Moyer, who opposed the council decision three years ago, proposed the bill after Drug Policy Coordinator Eric Avery resigned under pressure from Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins.
She said she was concerned department heads would not discuss matters freely with the mayor so long as he dictated their job security.
"We are talking about fairness and quality," Moyer said. "We're talking about professionalism vs. political appointments, and I come down on the side of professionalism."
Countered Hopkins, "I don't see why, if I am the one supervising departmentheads, we need to have such a bill. I have never fired a department head. You do your job, you stay; you don't, you take a walk."
The Rules Committee rejected Moyer's bill, 2-1, because of concern it would make department heads too difficult to remove.
Aldermen Carl O.Snowden, D-Ward 5, and Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, voted against the bill. Alderman Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4, voted in favor.