Legislators line up behind 'potty parity'

February 15, 1992|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- Women have been standing in line for this bill for a long time.

The House Economic Matters Committee yesterday overwhelmingly approved legislation that would make "potty parity" in theaters, stadiums, nightclubs, meeting halls, restaurants, museums, churches and other public facilities the law of the land -- or at least the law of Maryland.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Sheila E.Hixson, D-Montgomery, would require builders of new public "places of assembly" that hold 100 people or more to provide as many toilets for women as there are toilets and urinals combined for men.

The proposed law would only apply to new construction for which a construction permit is issued after May 1, 1993. It would not apply to any buildings that are restored or renovated, even if the restoration or renovation "involves 100 percent of the previously existing structure."

Similar bills have died in previous legislative sessions, but the measure gained more support this year when its provisions were made to apply only to new sports and entertainment facilities.

Women have complained that public buildings often provide a greater number of bathroom fixtures for men than for women, a situation that creates long waiting lines at women's bathrooms.

Del. Patrick C. Scannelo, D-Anne Arundel, the only committee member to vote against the bill, said he felt the provisions would be too costly to the Christian schools in his district, many of which were expanding.

But staff to the committee said they did not believe the bill would apply to schools, and it definitely would not apply to renovations.

Del. Ann Marie Doory, D-Baltimore, who helped the committee's "sanitary fixtures work group" redraft the legislation, said lawmakers laughed at the bill when it was first introduced several years ago, but now realize it's a serious issue.

"I think it starts to create a consistency in [building] standards, and it puts people on notice -- architects and builders -- that this is something to take into consideration," she said.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration next week.

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