- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation Tuesday authorizing the implementation of speed cameras at highway work zones and within a half-mile of schools statewide, even as residents mount an effort to put the issue to a public vote next year.

Mr. O’Malley, who signed the bill Tuesday morning, said the cameras are intended “to encourage people to slow down, so that we don’t take unnecessary risks with our neighbors who are sharing the road with us.”

That has not stopped a group of Marylanders from organizing an effort to repeal the new law, which takes effect Oct. 1, by putting the issue to voters.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said that residents are “welcome” to petition the bill, but he maintains the goal of the cameras is to improve public safety.

“They’re welcome to. But most people that I talk to believe that we all should be encouraged to slow down on our highways,” the governor said.

Asked whether the issue of traffic cameras should be put to a public vote, Mr. O’Malley responded that he was “agnostic.”

“I really don’t care one way or the other,” he said.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he was comfortable with the legislation.

“It’s hard to argue with people speeding through school zones and highway work zones. It seems to me to be a reasonable way to make people obey the law,” said Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

The law would give a $40 citation to motorists who travel more than 12 miles per hour than the posted limit in camera-monitored zones.

The legislation will expand a pilot program already in place in Montgomery County.

The nonprofit group Maryland for Responsible Enforcement is circulating the petition, which would allow voters to determine the fate of the cameras through a referendum question on next year’s ballot. State law requires that the group collect 53,000 signatures by June 30.

A third of the signatures need to be collected by June 1.

Members of the group showed up in Annapolis on Tuesday to witness the bill signing and to call attention to their efforts.

“We came to show that Marylanders want to have a say in their government,” said Justin Shuy, the group’s executive director.

Petition organizer Dan Zubairi, a Bethesda businessman and former Republican congressional candidate, said the group has collected about 10,000 signatures - about half of what it needs to meet the state’s first deadline.

But the group might need even more signatures.

Jared Demarinis, director of candidacy at the state Board of Elections, said that on average, at least 20 percent of initial signatures for a petition are likely to be thrown out.

That doesn’t deter petition organizers, who say the effort is gathering momentum.

“It’s picking up day by day, and it’s definitely a statewide effort. We have people out on the streets each day all over the state,” Mr. Zubairi said.

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