House committee sends bungee bill to study group STATE HOUSE REPORT

March 07, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

A House committee collectively leapt into the abyss of bungee jumping yesterday, argued heatedly about whether to outlaw the activity, and then bounced the issue to a study group.

"There is no safe way to do it. . . We should prohibit it," said Del. John A. Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat supporting a bill to ban bungee jumping operations and impose fines of up to $2,500 and up to six months in jail beginning Oct. 1.

"What happened to the freedom and individual liberty?" snapped Del. Richard LaVay, a Montgomery Republican, who strongly opposed the measure before the Economic Matters Committee. Lawmakers were "overreacting," he said, and he wondered whether other potentially hazardous pursuits should be banned. "Let's talk about skiiing. Let's talk about golf."

The committee took no action on the measure yesterday. Instead, Committee Chairman Casper R. Taylor, Jr. The Allegany Demorcat said he would appoint a working group tomorrow that would report back by Friday. The group would look into whether bungee jumping can be regulated or should be banned.

But most committee members urged a ban, leaving Del. Louis P. Morsberger, D-Baltimore County, to predict the committee would soon pass the prohibition bill.

Bungee jumping, an increasingly popular recreational activity, involves leaping from a tower, bridge or other high place strapped to an elastic-like cord. Although Maryland has no bungee jumping operations, a Pennsylvania-based company wants to open a bungee center in Ocean City this summer.

The ban was requested by the state's carnival owners, who say that despite repeated requests for the daredevil attraction, they view it as dangerous and want no part of it.

Bungee jumping from cranes resulted in two deaths last year in Michigan and Ontario. And last summer a Delaware woman broke her back when she bounced into an air bag designed to cushion a backward fall from bungee jumping.

Del. Michael Busch recalled the committee testimony last week of a Pennsylvania woman who received a spinal injury after bungee jumping at a fair. She now walks with a cane and has constant pain.

"They can't make it safe," the Anne Arundel Democrat said. "I'm for the bill."

Other committee members wondered whether there should be a prohibition on bungee jumping until -- and if -- the state can come up with regulations.

"I don't know why we can't regulate it," said Del Gerald J. $H Curran, a Baltimore Democrat, noting that several other states have controls. Bungee jumping companies also have suggested regulations.

But Del. Gary Alexander said state officials already have said already dismissed any regulations attempts.

"They said they can't do it. You can't regulate bungee jumping," the Democrat from Prince George's said.

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