- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The General Assembly is considering a bill that would let physicians carry guns and make arrests as members of county homeland-security teams.

The bill, sponsored by two Frederick County senators, was proposed by Frederick County Sheriff James Hagy. He said the Maryland Police Training Commission and sheriffs throughout the state support the measure.

Sheriff Hagy yesterday said the bill would ensure that someone schooled in biological, chemical and radiological weapons is among the first responders to a terrorist attack.

“He obviously would bring an expertise to the table that we in law enforcement don’t have,” Sheriff Hagy said.

Opponents say the proposal would blur the line between law enforcement and medical professionals.

“What will be next? Will our police officers be writing prescriptions for medications?” Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said.

MedChi, the state medical association, said county health officers already can order quarantines and detain people during infectious-disease outbreaks.

“The issue here is whether this proposal fits with the existing authorities, and whether or not it has the potential to be duplicative and problematic,” MedChi Executive Director Michael Preston said.

The measure, Senate Bill 232, would authorize each county sheriff to appoint a physician as the county’s medical adviser. The doctors then could take police training, conduct investigations and make arrests in cases involving biological weapons or other “catastrophic health emergencies.”

Doctors serving in the post for more than one year would have to be certified by the police training commission.

The bill is sponsored by state Sens. David R. Brinkley and Alex X. Mooney, both Frederick County Republicans, and Robert J. Garagiola, Montgomery County Democrat. A hearing before the Judicial Proceedings Committee was set for today.

Mr. Brinkley said he understands Sheriff Hagy’s interest in giving the medical advisers some police powers.

“I believe in certain circumstances they need to have authority,” Mr. Brinkley told the Frederick News-Post.

Sheriff Hagy said he didn’t know of any other state with similar legislation. He said critics who focus on the bill’s police powers are missing the point of the legislation.

“It’s turned into politics, which is tragic,” he said.

Meanwhile in Annapolis, a Republican senator has suggested a change in the Senate rules that would require his colleagues to vote on every bill submitted to the Senate.

Sen. Robert J. Kittleman, a Republican who represents Carroll and Howard counties, said he wants to prevent Senate committee chairmen from killing bills by never allowing them to come up for a vote. His proposal would require a committee vote on every bill.

Mr. Kittleman says the change would help keep the process open.

Republicans have been arguing in recent weeks that current Senate rules favor the Democrats.

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