- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

A Maryland Senate committee yesterday rejected a bill that would have allowed jurisdictions to use radar-enhanced cameras to photograph and ticket speeders, killing the issue in the General Assembly for this year.
The bill sponsored by state Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, Montgomery County Democrat was rejected in a 5-4 vote of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. A similar bill was killed this month in a House committee.
State Sen. Walter M. Baker, Cecil County Democrat and committee chairman, had denounced the bill as a revenue-generating scheme by jurisdictions, calling it "nothing more than another tax."
"That's what this bill is all about raising money," Mr. Baker said. "Bills should be penal. They should not be tax-raising measures."
The bill would have expanded police departments' use of traffic-enforcement cameras, which are operated by private vendors to automatically photograph and fine cars as they speed along streets or run red lights. Such camera programs have generated millions in revenue for jurisdictions around the country.
For example, the photo-radar program in the District, which began in August, has fined 216,268 drivers to date. It has collected more than $9 million from the 123,468 drivers who have paid their fines.
Police departments say such programs reduce the incidence of speeding and red-light running.
Several Maryland jurisdictions including Montgomery, Howard and Prince George's counties and Baltimore already use cameras to catch red-light runners. Those localities are interested in expanding their programs to include photo-radar cameras to catch speeders.
"What killed the bill was my chairman and some of the senators from more agrarian jurisdictions misunderstanding why we need [photo-radar cameras] and the use of the technology," Mrs. Forehand said yesterday.
She said her legislation was amended several times in hopes of getting it out of the committee, to no avail. Mr. Baker and four Republican senators from rural areas were nervous about the photo-radar programs coming to their jurisdictions, she said.
"We are the only jurisdiction with more pedestrian deaths by traffic accident than homicides over a five-year period," Mrs. Forehand said of the need for speeding cameras in cities such as Rockville and Gaithersburg.
Last year, 14 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in Montgomery County, which reported 18 homicides.
Mrs. Forehand said her bill complemented a bill in the House drafted by Delegate Salima S. Marriott, Baltimore Democrat. Mrs. Marriott's bill faced similar criticism and was killed in the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, headed by Delegate John F. Wood Jr., St. Mary's County Democrat.
Mrs. Forehand's bill underwent several changes that made it differ starkly from the House bill. Instead of allowing any interested jurisdiction to use photo-radar, the Forehand bill would have allowed only Montgomery County and Baltimore to run pilot programs.
Mrs. Forehand's bill also called for using a flat-fee contract with the vendor and directing revenues in excess of the program costs to traffic- and pedestrian-safety measures.
Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas runs most of the red-light camera programs for 16 Maryland jurisdictions. It also runs the District's red-light and photo-radar camera programs.
Mrs. Forehand said she will introduce her bill again in next year's General Assembly session.
"We need to work with the other jurisdictions that want to use the technology, like Howard and Baltimore city," she said.


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