- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a plan to place speed cameras in highway work zones and within a half-mile of schools across the state.

The House of Delegates voted 94-41 in favor of the bill, which would authorize a $40 citation to motorists who drive 12 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit in camera-monitored zones. Drivers will have the right to challenge the tickets in court and will not be penalized with points on their driver’s licenses.

Supporters of the measure, which expands a pilot program already in place in Montgomery County, say it is necessary to protect children and state workers and will better enforce speeding laws.

“A law is a law. It’s not a law when just a police officer is around. It’s a law 24 hours a day,” said Doyle L. Nieman, Prince George’s Democrat.

Critics say the cameras are an intrusion on privacy rights and are nothing more than a tool to generate revenue for state and local governments.

“Freedom’s not lost in one fell swoop, it’s lost one camera at a time,” said Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Cecil Republican.

On the House floor, opponents of the bill were rejected over a dozen times in attempts to amend the bill to limit its scope. Tony McConkey, Anne Arundel Republican, offered an amendment to ensure the special license tags of General Assembly members were also ticketed.

“There’s a feeling of unfairness toward this law. I feel this law should apply to everybody,” said Mr. McConkey. Supporters of the bill said that there was no evidence to assume assembly members’ vehicles would be excluded, and the amendment was rejected by a vote of 85-34.

Other opponents said the bill amounted to a new tax on driving.

“This is nothing more than a money grab, it’s not a safety bill at all,” said Kevin Kelley, Allegany Democrat.

Tanya T. Shewell, Carroll Republican, pointed out that signs will warn drivers they are entering a speed camera zone, and a speed trailer will show how fast they are traveling. She said those who still speed deserve to be ticketed.

“I think you have to be pretty dumb not to change your behavior if you had all of that warning,” she said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, supports speed cameras and originally wanted speed cameras in residential areas. A Senate committee amended the bill so the cameras would only be allowed in work zones, but the bill was later changed to include schools.

Last week, the bill was rejected by a single vote on the floor of the Senate until Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. offered to reconsider the bill a day later. Mr. Miller, Prince George’s Democrat, and three other senators changed their votes, allowing the legislation to pass and move to the House.

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