House defeats proposal on use of car headlights

IN THE LEGISLATURE

March 02, 1995|By Sun staff writer John A. Morris from staff reports. PTC

The House of Delegates yesterday defeated legislation that would have required motorists to turn on their headlights in the rain.

Although similar legislation had passed the Senate, the delegates voted 67 to 62 against House Bill 183. The bill would have required drivers to turn on headlights any time they operated their windshield wipers.

Opponents argued that the proposal was an attempt to legislate common sense.

"When are we going to get the message that the people are big boys and girls and can make their own decisions," said Del. Michael W. Burns, a Glen Burnie Republican.

Violating the law would have been been punishable by a $25 fine.

Despite the Senate's approval, the House vote effectively kills the proposal for this year.

House OKs recruiting of election judges

The House has voted to allow Baltimore and the counties to recruit election judges from outside their jurisdictions.

House Bill 439 was approved Tuesday, 82-50. The bill is an outgrowth of last fall's election, when Baltimore could not recruit enough Republican city residents to monitor every precinct.

The bill would require local election boards to first seek 'u Democratic and Republican judges from their jurisdictions. But if a board were unable to find enough poll monitors from one party or the other, officials would be required to expand their search to neighboring counties.

The bill, sponsored by Del. John S. Morgan, a Howard County Republican, now moves to the Senate.

Panel may reconsider statute of limitations

A House panel may reconsider its decision not to extend the statute of limitations for violations of Maryland's election and lobbying laws.

House Bill 4, which arose out of last fall's conviction of lobbyist Bruce Bereano on federal mail fraud charges, was defeated 19-4 last week by the Commerce and Government Matters Committee. But Del. Gerald J. Curran, a Baltimore Democrat and the committee chairman, said the panel might reconsider the bill in the light of "new evidence."

The bill would give prosecutors three years to bring election or lobbying violations to court. When the panel voted last Thursday, opponents argued that the statute of limitations should remain the same -- one year -- as that for other misdemeanors.

Committee members apparently were unaware that the current statute of limitations for election and lobbying violations is two years. The panel also was unaware that the State Ethics Commission had voted the same day in support of a three-year window for prosecution.

"I would personally consider that new evidence," Mr. Curran said.

According to uncontested testimony during his trial, Bereano violated state election laws in 1990. However, the state could not prosecute him on those charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

SENATE

Bill to require business rating passes

The Senate has approved a measure that would require lawmakers to consider the economic impact of legislation on small businesses before approving it.

Under Senate Bill 55, an "economic impact rating" would be prepared to determine whether a measure would have an effect on businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees.

Opponents argued that the reports required by the bill could cost the state $300,000 a year and are unlikely to provide a complete picture of how a law might affect small businesses.

"This is a feel-good bill that can't possibly give us the outcome we desire," said Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat.

G; The bill, approved Tuesday 42-5, now goes to the House.

Bill allowing review of forfeitures OK'd

A measure that would make it harder for police and prosecutors to take away the cars of suspected drug dealers won Senate approval Monday.

Senate Bill 112, approved 28-19, would allow car owners to seek an immediate court review in drug-related forfeiture cases.

The police currently are permitted to seize a car or truck if they believe it was used -- or even intended to be used -- to store or move illegal drugs. The owner need not be charged criminally and may be without the car for four to six months waiting for the forfeiture case to come to trial.

Opponents of the bill, which was vetoed last year by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, say it would unnecessarily weaken forfeiture as an alternative to fines and jail.

The bill now goes to the House.

People power

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