- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

The General Assembly is likely to pass a bill that would allow Montgomery County to use automated cameras to ticket speeders, now that the county delegation has unanimously approved the legislation.
But a bill that would allow jurisdictions statewide to use the photo-radar cameras has an uncertain future in the General Assembly, which killed similar proposals in previous years.
The Montgomery County bill, which was proposed on behalf of County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, has been forwarded to the county's senators. As a legislative courtesy, the General Assembly usually passes bills that have been approved by a jurisdiction's delegation.
Montgomery already has several cameras at traffic lights to photograph and ticket red-light runners.
County lawmakers said they would contract with a vendor to provide the photo-radar service with a flat fee instead of a percentage of each ticket issued to address criticism that vendors have a monetary inducement to write as many tickets as possible.
Critics have derided automated traffic enforcement as a revenue-generating tool for jurisdictions and an infringement of civil rights. Photo-radar cameras deployed in the District since August 2001 have issued more than 475,000 tickets totaling nearly $24.7 million in fines.
"The idea is not to make money, not to make anything, but to make people aware and slow down and not go over the speed limit," said state Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, Montgomery County Democrat and co-sponsor of the statewide bill.
Mrs. Forehand and Delegate William A. Bronrott, Montgomery County Democrat and bill co-sponsor, said their statewide camera bill will fare better than its predecessors because they have narrowed the focus of the legislation.
The bill would allow police departments to issue tickets of up to $100 to the owners of vehicles traveling more than 10 mph above a posted speed limit. Cameras would be deployed only in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
The bill has won support from powerful groups, including the Maryland Municipal League, which represents 157 municipal governments statewide, and the Maryland Association of Counties, a nonprofit that represents all of the state's counties.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has expressed strong opposition to cameras that photograph, ticket and fine speeders and red-light runners.
Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said yesterday the governor would consider the bills if they reach his desk, but added he is concerned about an expansion in the use of automated traffic cameras.
Mr. Bronrott said he hopes Mr. Ehrlich would sign the bill. "After all, he has made public safety his top priority," he said.
Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he supports radar cameras because of evidence that they are "reliable and the technology is efficient enough so that we don't misidentify people."
The District-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety estimates that nearly 30 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities nationwide are speed-related. In 2001, Maryland recorded 660 vehicle fatalities, including 70 in Montgomery County.

The state Senate yesterday passed legislation naming the thoroughbred as the official state horse.
Maryland already has a state cat, dog, bird, crustacean, dinosaur, fish, insect and reptile. Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee already have a state horse.
The first thoroughbred race in the United States was held in Annapolis in 1745, when Maryland was still a colony.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Leo E. Green, Prince George's County Democrat. It now moves to the House.


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