- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — The House of Delegates yesterday voted to overturn Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s veto of a bill that would authorize the use automated speed cameras in Montgomery County.

In an 89-45 vote that crossed party lines, the House sent to the Senate an override measure that would allow Montgomery County officials to place automated cameras in school zones and issue $40 tickets to drivers who exceed the speed limit by at least 10 mph.

The Senate, which could vote on the measure as early as today, will likely override the veto since the chamber approved the bill last year with 29 votes — the three-fifths majority necessary for an override, senators from both parties said yesterday.

“It’s a money grab. That’s all it is,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly of Allegany County, one of 17 Democrats who joined most of the House Republicans in opposing the override.

Seven Republican delegates voted for the override.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly this year has reversed more vetoes than it overrode during the 16 years of the last two Democratic administrations.

Lawmakers have overridden vetoes by Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, 13 times this year. The overrides — which include raising the minimum wage to $6.15 per hour and forcing Wal-Mart to pay more for employee health benefits — have passed in near party-line votes.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said yesterday’s vote demonstrates that the recent spate of overrides has not been rooted in party politics.

“I think it is great there was bipartisan support,” Mr. Busch said. “I don’t try to make these things Democrat and Republican.”

Ehrlich spokesman Henry P. Fawell said the governor does not view the vote as a significant break in party unity.

“The Republican legislators and the governor are in lock step on the vast majority of issues, including tax relief to homeowners, veterans and small businesses,” Mr. Fawell said.

Delegate Richard B. Weldon Jr., Western Maryland Republican, said he was being consistent in voting for the override.

“I voted for the bill last year,” he said. “I believe in local government autonomy. I’m a guy who came from local government.”

Critics of the automated cameras say they are used as a moneymaking scheme by local governments and skirt the right to a fair trial.

Mr. Ehrlich cited “invasion of privacy” as part of his reason for vetoing the measure.

He also objected to the bill’s focus on a single jurisdiction, which he said creates a precedent for speed cameras in other counties without a debate on a statewide speed-camera law.

Maryland already allows red-light cameras, which are in use throughout the state, including in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

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