11 local bills on table at hearing

general assembly

Speed cameras, banning panhandling on state roads up for discussion at Nov. 25 meeting

November 09, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,larry.carson@baltsun.com

Drivers who hot-foot it through Howard County got a one-year reprieve when speed-camera legislation failed in the final days of last spring's General Assembly session, but state Sen. James N. Robey is gearing up for a second try.

The measure leads a modest list of 11 local bills that are to be the subject of a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25 at school board headquarters on Route 108.

Five of the measures are bond bills requesting state funds for projects in the county. The rest are mostly unsuccessful proposals from years past.

One new idea, sponsored by Del. Warren E. Miller, would eliminate Howard's exemption to state liquor laws requiring that liquor license applicants prove citizenship.

Miller characterized the bill as a "housekeeping" measure that would not keep legal residents who are not citizens from getting a license.

"It would not do anything," he said. "It's cleaning up state law."

Another new measure would ban panhandling in traffic on state roads. County law already bans the activity on county roads.

Del. Guy Guzzone, one of three co-sponsors with fellow Democrats Frank S. Turner and Shane Pendergrass, said people asking for money where county roads intersect with state roads, such as Dobbin Road at Route 175, remain a problem.

Robey said he is determined to push forward with a local speed-camera bill that would cover county roads with speed limits up to 45 mph, regardless of whether a bill for a statewide law is offered.

"I'm not going to make the same mistake I did last year," Robey said.

The former county executive and police chief got his local bill through the county delegation but allowed it to die when a statewide bill backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley was introduced. But that measure stalled.

"Nothing's changed," Robey said this week. "We're still not willing to subject police officers to the risk of stepping out in traffic. The need is as great as it ever was."

County police suspended the practice of officers using radar to track speeders and then stepping out into traffic to stop vehicles after Cpl. Scott Wheeler was killed in June 2007 by a motorist who did not see him.

Robey said he decided to reduce the potential fine in the new version of his bill - from $75 to $40 - to counter arguments that speed cameras are mostly intended to raise revenue.

Robey said at $40 he doubts the fines would do much more than cover the program's costs. No more than 10 cameras would be in use at any one time, under the bill.

County Executive Ken Ulman said he strongly supports the idea, and O'Malley said he likely will support a new statewide bill, as well.

The bond bills request $500,000 each to help renovate the old post office on Main Street in Ellicott City into a tourism office, continue design on the Robinson Nature Center, and for planning Troy Regional Park off U.S. 1.

Two other requests are for $300,000: one to help build an addition to the Linwood Center for autistic children in Ellicott City, and the second introduced by Del. Gail H. Bates to support the Farm Heritage Museum in West Friendship.

With state revenues declining, however, Bates said she does not expect everything to be approved.

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican, is also bringing back a bill to authorize the County Council to grant a property tax break to homeowners who get public water but not sewer service. The bill died last year after Ulman administration budget officials opposed it.

highlights

Highlights of local Howard County legislation:

* $300,000 bond bill to help design and build a new structure at Linwood Center for autistic children.

* $500,000 bond bill for design and renovation of Main Street post office in Ellicott City into a tourism office.

* $500,000 bond bill to help design and build the Robinson Nature Center off Cedar Lane.

* $500,000 bond bill for design of the proposed Troy Regional Park

* $300,000 bond bill to aid the Living Farm Heritage Museum

* A bill to allow use of speed cameras on Howard County roads.

* A bill to remove Howard's exemption to state liquor law requiring that license applicants be citizens.

* Prohibiting anyone from standing on a state highway in Howard County to collect money or advertise.

* Authorizing the County Council to grant property tax relief to residents in "water only" portion of the county.

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