House rejects bill to punish young drinkers


March 11, 1994

For the second year in a row, a House panel has killed a proposal by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to punish underage drinkers by taking away their driving privileges.

The House Judiciary Committee defeated the governor's bill this week in a 12-8 vote, despite the support of parents and groups against drunken driving.

"We thought we made a compelling argument that more needs to be done to discourage that older group, those between 16 and 21, from not only drinking but drinking and driving," said Bonnie Kirkland, a gubernatorial aide.

But committee members said they were reluctant to link driving privileges to offenses not involving a motor vehicle. Under the bill, minors could have had their licenses suspended for 30 days or longer for being in possession of alcoholic beverages, even if they weren't driving.

The state Department of Juvenile Services said at least 866 minors could have temporarily lost their driving privileges during VTC the past year had such a law been in effect.


Bill to change name of Redskins defeated

A House committee yesterday defeated an attempt to require Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to change the name of his National Football League franchise.

Del. Salima Siler Marriott, D-Baltimore, said the name is a racial slur against North American Indians and should be changed before Mr. Cooke receives any state help in moving his team to Laurel.

Without any debate, the Commerce and Government Matters Committee voted against the bill, 15 to 4.

Delegates require use of recycled paper

A bill that would require court documents to be filed on recycled paper passed the House of Delegates yesterday.

Several delegates who are lawyers objected to the measure, which was approved by a vote of 108 to 12. Opponents questioned what would happen if recycled paper was not used.

Del. Theodore Levin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said he worried that an enterprising attorney might misuse the requirement as a reason to have a document printed on non-recycled paper thrown out of court.

Defenders of the bill, which now goes to the Senate, said recycled paper is readily available and reasonably priced.


Credit card use ruled out for donations

The state Senate narrowly defeated a bill yesterday that would have allowed political contributions of up to $100 to be charged to credit cards.

Advocates argued that the bill, which failed on a vote of 20 to 25, would help citizens participate in political campaigns. It was defeated despite the support of the state Democratic and Republican parties and other political action committees that raise money.

Opponents charged that the bill was crafted to help those groups raise money to elect and lobby lawmakers. "I don't think we ought to be in the business of helping PACS make money," said Sen. Christopher McCabe, a Howard-Montgomery Republican.

The introduction of credit cards into the world of campaign finance would be "unseemly, tacky and unprofessional," said Sen. Julian Lapides, a Baltimore Democrat.

Drunken driving bill relies on blood test

A bill that would make it easier for authorities to convict drunken drivers was approved by the state Senate yesterday in a 38-9 vote.

The measure would make it illegal for anyone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 or higher to operate a car, whether or not the driver exhibits symptoms of drunkenness, such as slurred speech. Blood-alcohol content is a ratio of grams of alcohol to milliliters of blood.

Blood-alcohol levels, which are measured by blowing into a testing device, are currently used in court as evidence of drunken driving. However, proponents of the bill say judges can find drivers not guilty even though their blood-alcohol level exceeds 0.10.

The bill would eliminate the ability of the judge to weigh other factors.

Sen. Walter Baker opposed the bill, complaining that it would deprive drivers of the "due process" of law. "You are essentially being tried by a machine instead of a person," the Cecil County Democrat said.

The measure now goes to the House.

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