- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2000

ANNAPOLIS A Maryland state senator whose father was a leader in the civil rights movement engineered a vote Thursday that killed a bill aimed at ending racial profiling.

But Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, Baltimore Democrat, said he is confident that the legislature will address the issue through another bill he expects the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to amend and approve Friday.

That bill sponsored by Sen. Ida G. Ruben, Montgomery County Democrat would create a task force that would analyze and report on data collected from routine traffic stops.

Mr. Mitchell, son of former Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell III, wants to alter Mrs. Ruben's bill to incorporate much of what was in the House bill, sponsored by Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, before the Commerce and Government Matters Committee amended it.

"I just feel much more comfortable with a task force gathering data" already routinely reported, Mr. Mitchell said, rather than having police consciously self-report, as they would under the current House bill.

Maryland settled a lawsuit in 1995 agreeing that state police would not use race as a factor in traffic stops. But two years later, a federal judge ruled that there was still evidence of discrimination in traffic stops along Interstate 95 in northeastern Maryland.

Troopers who patrol I-95 now drive cars equipped with video cameras and must record the race of all people they pull over.

A three-year probe of Montgomery County police found that blacks were stopped in disproportionate numbers. Under an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, Montgomery police are required to record the length of each stop as well as the race or ethnicity of the driver, reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted, what was found and whether the driver was charged.

Except for the duration of the stop, all that information already is recorded when state police make a traffic stop, Mr. Mitchell said.

Law enforcement officials have warned lawmakers that statistics tell only part of the story. Police have expressed concern that monitoring officers for evidence of racial profiling could influence them to be less aggressive in using pretextual stops, which they say are a valuable enforcement tool, especially for cracking down on drug trafficking.

One minority delegate stunned when he first heard Mr. Mitchell had opposed the bill was Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat who testified that he was a victim of racial profiling when a police officer pulled him over for no apparent reason while he was driving his Mercedes with House of Delegates license plates.

"I'm baffled, a little irritated he has done a disservice to the people of the state," Mr. Branch said.

• • •

The Senate approved a bill Thursday that would restrict the business relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers.

The bill prohibits lawmakers from engaging in business dealings with lobbyists. Lobbyists would have to report any substantial business dealings with lawmakers and top government officials.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor, Allegany Democrat, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George's Democrat, said they're concerned about a public perception that such dealings are unethical.

The House already has approved the legislation, so it now goes to Mr. Glendening.

• • •

Legislation creating a rule book for the future of electronic commerce was approved Thursday in the Senate.

Senators, who passed the measure 37-8, said their version is more "consumer-friendly" than a version the House passed last week.

The bill goes to a joint committee to work out some substantial differences before Monday, when the General Assembly session ends.

In what may become a major point of contention, senators altered the bill to allow the state's consumers to bring legal claims against software companies in Maryland courts. The House had fought hard to preserve the right of companies to choose the states where legal claims would be filed against them.

• • •

A White House advance team Thursday toured the State House in Annapolis in preparation for President Clinton's visit.

Mr. Clinton plans to be in Annapolis on Tuesday when Mr. Glendening signs the nation's first law requiring built-in locks on all new handguns sold in Maryland.

The House passed the legislation Monday.

Mr. Clinton has praised the law and has urged Congress to follow Maryland's lead and enact gun-safety legislation before the one-year anniversary April 20 of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

• • •

The House gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would recalculate the way the state calculates property taxes.

The House sent the "truth in taxation" bill to Mr. Glendening's desk on a 113-26 vote.

The legislation would require homes to be taxed at their full assessed value rather than the current 40 percent. However, the actual amount of taxes paid wouldn't increase because the change would be coupled with a reduction in the tax rate.

The change would go into effect for the next tax year.

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