- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

The Maryland Senate on Thursday reversed course and approved a bill expanding the use of automated traffic-enforcement cameras to ticket speeders in highway work zones and near schools.

The approval came a day after senators defeated the same bill by one vote Wednesday night.

The legislation, which was requested by Gov. Martin O’Malley, expands statewide a pilot program in Montgomery County. Under the bill, the cameras will be limited to school zones and neighborhoods in which the speed limit is 45 miles per hour or less. Motorists who drive 12 miles or more over the speed limit will be punished with a $40 fine.

“The governor has been clear in his support for speed cameras early on,” O’Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said. “It’s a public safety issue. They have been shown to improve public safety on our roadways in Montgomery County.”

A motion to reconsider Wednesday’s vote was introduced early Thursday and was passed by a 28-19 vote. The legislation survived a filibuster attempt and passed by a 27-20 vote after four senators switched their vote. The senators were Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat; Ulysses Currie, Prince George’s Democrat; Nancy J. King, Montgomery Democrat; and Robert A. Zirkin, Baltimore County Democrat.

The senators reportedly received assurances that no further bills attempting to put speed cameras in residential areas or to expand camera use further in certain counties would be sponsored in the future.

“You don’t want to throw down the gauntlet, but we’re not going to take that at all,” Mr. Miller told the Associated Press. “We’re not going to take residential, and we’re not going to take these other counties.”

Opponents say that the bill is just a way to generate more revenue and that there are too many unanswered questions for the bill to actually improve public safety.

John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, called the bill “absolute hypocrisy” and a “cash cow for revenue.”

He said it remains to be seen what constitutes a school zone or a work zone.

“Whose definition of school zone do you use?” he said.

Mr. Townsend also said the camera system automatically assumes that the owner of the car that is speeding is the same person that was driving the car.

“The person who has been accused is almost powerless to fight back,” he said.

However, Mr. Adamec said that the problems that Mr. Townsend mentioned are insignificant and that the public-safety benefits of the cameras outweigh the “minor challenges” they pose. He said that how the bill is enforced is something the law enforcement agencies should work out.

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