Councilwoman fuming over smoking bill Boschert delayed it, Lamb says

February 19, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb complained bitterly yesterday that Council Chairman David G. Boschert deliberately delayed action on her anti-smoking bill at Monday's meeting to prevent a vote.

"I'm really provoked, because I've never seen this happen before," Ms. Lamb said. "We've always used a little bit of courtesy before."

The council began considering the bill, which would limit smoking in most public places to designated areas, about five minutes before midnight. The proposed law would fine violators $50 for the first offense and increase the fine by $50 for each additional offense.

Before she realized it, Ms. Lamb said, it was midnight and the bill had not been read into the record. Therefore, according to law, no legislative action could be taken.

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, who intended to vote for the bill, echoed Ms. Lamb's complaint.

"That's not how I think a public body should conduct itself," Mr. Middlebrooks said. "If the intent was to hold the bill, then clearly someone should have made a motion to hold the bill."

But Mr. Boschert, whose attempt to introduce a task force to study the smoking issue also was shut out by the clock, said his colleagues' criticisms were off the mark.

"I take issue with that," Mr. Boschert said. "I even asked [Council attorney Atwood Tate] how to move the clock back. He said there was only one person who could do that," referring to God.

Ms. Lamb said that Mr. Boschert deliberately neglected to have the bill read into the record, as is his practice, as the council began its deliberation.

"I did not catch the fact that he skipped that part of it," Ms. Lamb said. "But that was his out and the reason he did not have to vote on it."

Mr. Boschert insisted his intention was not to derail the legislation and that he still wanted to see the council adopt a smoking ordinance at its March 15 meeting, either Ms. Lamb's bill with amendments or another version.

"She's not on the wrong track," he said of her bill. "She's just on the wrong train."

He said he had several problems with the bill, including the fact that smoking is allowed in some public places, like bowling alleys, but not in public meetings. "I have a bowling alley in my district that has a meeting room," he said. "How do I know if I'm in violation or not in violation?"

The bill is hostile to employers, Mr. Boschert said, and should be written to lessen the burden on them. "Employers have rights, too," he said. "They're the ones hiring employees, they're the ones paying taxes. We must listen to them, too."

Mr. Boschert proposed forming a task force of business leaders, people from the medical community and lawyers from the county Bar Association. No lobbyists would be allowed, a provision apparently aimed at Annapolis lawyer Bruce C. Bereano, who represents the Tobacco Institute and led the opposition to the bill.

The task force would be limited to 15 members and would meet for no more than seven months, Mr. Boschert said. It would explore the possibility and constitutionality of instituting a total ban on smoking in public places, with the intention of modifying whatever legislation the council passes in March.

Forming a task force seemed like a delaying tactic to the bill's supporters. "This county needs another task force like it needs another budget cut from the state," Mr. Middlebrooks said. "A task force is just another way to delay making a decision on a matter like this."

In other business, the council postponed a vote on a major government reorganization proposed by County Executive Robert R. Neall. Public testimony on the bill did not begin until 11:30 p.m. and several people were frustrated because they were not given enough time to speak.

The council approved a bill regulating rubble landfills that accept materials from construction sites.

The bill, which was written with the help of a citizen task force, is an attempt to balance the need for such landfills with environmental and operating controls that minimize the nuisance nearby residents.

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