Compromise Hotel Bill Earns Council Approval

Guest Records Would Be Open For 7 Days

October 23, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Hotels will be required to provide information on their guests to police, under a bill approved by the County Council Monday night.

County Executive Robert R. Neall proposed the bill on behalf of county police, who wanted access to information on hotel guests to help themcatch drug dealers operating out of county hotel rooms.

But the bill approved by the council has some protections not included in Neall's bill. Neall's bill would have required innkeepers tohand over guests' registration and phone records whenever a police officer asked for them.

After hotel operators protested that the bill was an invasion of guests' privacy, the council changed the bill so that hoteliers do not have to give police the records if more than seven days have passed since a guest checked out.

The compromise also gives hotel operators the right to request written authorization from the police chief that the inspection is part of a criminal investigation. The authorization would state that the guest in question iseither believed to be staying at the hotel or has checked out withinthe last seven days.

After seven days, police would have to obtain a subpoena from a judge to get the records. That is the current procedure for obtaining records, one that police say takes too long in emergency situations, often allowing the suspect to escape.

Hotel industry officials told council members the compromise was acceptable.

"We want to cooperate with county police to rid this county of drug dealers," said Carroll Gray, head of the Maryland Hotel Association.

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn, was the only council member to oppose the bill.

"We have a process in place that addresses this that makes us different from other countries," Middlebrooks said. "There's a privacy issue here that wasn't addressed in this bill."

The bill will take effect 45 days after Neall signs it.

In other action Monday night, the County Council:

* Approved a bill that officials hope will stamp out illicit massage parlors.

The bill, proposed by Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, will require massage establishments, managers and technicians that fall under the legislation to be licensed by the Department of Inspections and Permits.

It would make it illegal for masseuses to work on members of the opposite sex or to touch "erogenous areas," and would require clients to cover these parts of the body during the massage.

The legislation requires masseuses and managers of massage operations to have at least 200 hours of training from a nationally recognized institution.

Bachman proposed the bill after two county massage parlors werefound offering manual stimulation to clients, a practice not coveredunder solicitation laws.

* Set a public hearing for Nov. 4 on a bill proposed by Neall that would give him broad authority to cut county spending to cover a $7.9 million loss in state aid.

The councilhad set an Oct. 28 date for a hearing on the Emergency Budget Authority Enabling Act, but changed that date Monday.

The bill also would reopen the county budget process, an unprecedented move that would require county departments and quasi-independent agencies, such as the Board of Education, to submit new budgets to Neall and the County Council for approval.

The council hopes to approve a new budget Dec. 2.

* Set a public hearing for Nov. 13 on a County Council redistricting plan proposed by Councilman David Boschert, D-Crownsville.

Three council members have co-sponsored Boschert's redistricting plan, but the proposal has already run into opposition from the Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association and the Greater Severn Improvement Association, communities that would be split under the plan.

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