- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday signed a series of bills into law that he said will make Maryland "far, far better prepared" for a terrorist attack.
The administration worked hard to create legislation that would enhance the security of Marylanders while pro- tecting their basic civil rights, Mr. Glendening said before signing the first batch of legislation produced in the 2002 legislative session that ended Monday night.
One of the laws signed yesterday clarifies the governor's ability to declare a state of emergency when there is a threat of terrorism, a terrorist attack or a public-health catastrophe. Another empowers the governor and the state health secretary to take actions in a health emergency, such as quarantining people with deadly diseases.
"We all hope to never have to use any of these powers," said Mr. Glendening, a Democrat.
Other new laws authorize the secretary of agriculture to apply for a search warrant to test for infectious and contagious livestock and poultry diseases, such as anthrax, and streamlines the process through which local jurisdictions can request assistance from other localities.
Another new law creates a 15-member Maryland Security Council responsible for coordinating a cooperative response to possible terrorism by state, local and federal agencies.
Most of the bills sailed through the General Assembly with little opposition. Some, however, raised the concerns of civil liberties advocates, including legislation that would permit state and local officials to deny public access to some records if they determine the records could pose a threat to the public if released.
David Rocah, a lawyer with the Maryland branch of the American Civil Liberties Union , said the group worked closely with the governor's staff to narrow definitions of what documents would be closed.
Some of those instances include vulnerability assessments of government facilities that might be attacked by terrorists, blueprints of state buildings and information on which state medical facilities are housing hazardous materials.
The ACLU accepted those changes, but continues to have concerns about another piece of legislation that the governor did not sign.
The Maryland Security Protection Act of 2002, the bill first defines the crime of terrorism in Maryland law and includes it as an act for which local police can use wiretapping. Mr. Rocah said it's wrong to justify the legislation as an anti-terrorism measure because it's highly unlikely that local police will be investigating terrorists.
Mr. Glendening is expected to sign it into law in the next few days.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide