- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 27, 2013

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed laws on gambling, gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Up next: cable companies, cart thieves and crab sandwiches.

The 2013 session is less than three weeks old, and hundreds of bills have been submitted for consideration. Last week, Delegate Kathy Szeliga culled the extensive list of proposed legislation to find humor — and not a small amount of humbleness — in Annapolis.

Ms. Szeliga’s “Not Top 5 Bills” list runs the gamut. One bill, for example, seeks to limit the number of companies a licensed tree specialist can supervise.

“These are really not that important,” said Ms. Szeliga, Baltimore County Republican.

Elected two years ago, Ms. Szeliga said she tries to send out a weekly update to her constituents. Earlier this month, she posted a video with her top five priorities for the session, which include the issues of gun regulation, the death penalty, pit bull laws and wind power.

So now she looked at five bills, sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, that she thought didn’t need to be law.

“Right now, it’s the beginning of the session. People are upbeat, happy,” Ms. Szeliga explained. “We just kind of wanted to bring some humor, have everybody lighten up. I didn’t want to poke anyone in the eye.”

At the top of her list is a bill that would designate golf cart zones along Charles County highways.

Proposed by the four-member delegation that represents the Southern Maryland county, the bill stems from an October recommendation to the county commissioners, asking them to work with state leaders to get golf carts allowed on main roadways.

“It lends itself to humor,” Ms. Szeliga said. “I think, what’s next, rascal zones? Look out, here comes grandma!”

Another bill that made the cut is Senate Bill 220, which imposes a number of penalties for “television service providers” who miss appointments. According to the bill, which is sponsored by Delegate Talmadge Branch, companies would be required to credit customers for one month of basic service if they miss their appointment window.

“I agree that no one likes waiting for the cable guy, but I’m not sure we need a codified fine against them,” Ms. Szeliga said.

Mr. Branch, Baltimore Democrat, explained that the proposal addresses the frustration of customers who have to take off a full day of work just to wait for a four-hour appointment window.

“It’s not fair to the consumer,” he said.

Another bill that caught Ms. Szeliga’s eye was Senate Bill 191, which would raise the penalty for stealing grocery store carts from $25 to $100.

Sen. Nancy J. King, one of the sponsors for the wheeled cart bill, said she lives in a community that has several grocery stores that have to deal with missing carts.

“People go and shop, then push the carts home. They leave them out in the community rather than return them to the store,” said Ms. King, Montgomery Democrat.

A new cart costs about $250, Ms. King said, so stores are faced with either spending the money to buy replacement carts or paying for some way to collect the carts.

Ms. King called Ms. Szeliga’s list “ridiculous” but acknowledged that she probably wouldn’t have put up the bill had she not gotten so many complaints from homeowners associations.

Of the five bills on her list, Ms. Szeliga said one of the most entertaining reads is the analysis for the crab sandwich legislation, which goes into detail about the makings of the sandwich, including “maybe a squirt of lemon, Old Bay seasoning or some tartar sauce.”

The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Rudolph C. Cane, Wicomico Democrat, explained that the legislation would give the local economy a boost.

“We put in a bill a couple years ago for the state cake [the Smith Island cake],” Mr. Cane said. “It’s improved the economy in Smith Island and the Chesapeake.”

“We’re hoping this brings in something for the waterman, so they have an economic boost,” he added. “It’s not a food thing, but to be helpful to the watermen.”

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