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After reconsideration, enabling legislation to allow the use of speed enforcement cameras in certain situations was approved by the Maryland Senate this week, 27-20.

That’s a major hurdle for a controversial program which is gaining use in many states; however, the legislation will still have to be passed by the House of Delegates to become law.

The senate’s speed enforcement camera bill would enable all counties and municipalities in the state to use speed cameras in school zones and specified highway work zones.

If Harford County or one of its three municipalities wanted to deploy speed cameras, a county or town law will still have to be passed to authorize them.

A violation of speeding laws caught on the camera would result in a $40 fine and no points on the driver’s license.

The bill was voted on Wednesday night by the senate and failed, 23-24, but it was reconsidered Thursday morning and passed. All three Harford County senators voted against the bill both times.

Harford Sen. Barry Glassman said he thinks speeding tickets should be issued by a police officer who has witnessed the infraction.

“I am old-fashioned,” he said. “It’s too much Big Brother for me.”

Glassman also voted against the bill because he said the main use for it is a revenue source for municipalities and counties.

“If a county or municipality wanted it, they should come to us and ask,” he said. “We shouldn’t give blanket authority across the state.”

The house version of the speed cameras bill which does not include school zones had a hearing Feb. 10 in the Environmental Matters Committee, but has not seen any movement since.

If this bill passes, the town of Bel Air may be one of the municipalities seeking use of speed enforcement cameras.

The town commissioners made the request to the county’s legislators during a pre-session meeting in November.

Bel Air is the only jurisdiction in Harford County to deploy red light cameras. The town got $466,000 from its program in its last full fiscal year.

Text messaging

A house bill that would prohibit a driver from writing or sending a text message while driving passed, 133-2, with Harford Del. J.B. Jennings, chairman of the county delegation, one of two delegates to vote against it.

Harford Dels. Pat McDonough and Donna Stifler were absent from this vote.

Jennings said he voted against the bill because there are numerous reckless driving laws already.

“All we have to do is enforce the current law,” Jennings said.

The bill would not apply to use of global positioning systems or text messaging to contact a 911 system.

He also said the bill would be hard to enforce because an officer may not be able to tell the difference between a driver dialing a phone number and a driver typing a text message.

“It is very unclear of how to determine what a person was doing,” he said.

Jennings said he does not believe you should text while driving. He said there should be a law that would deal with all distractions to drivers.

Death penalty

Gov. Martin O’Malley will sign a bill that would restrict the use of the death penalty to cases where there is specified biological or DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or a video recording, according to Glassman and Jennings.

The senate version of the bill passed, 34-13, and the house version of the bill passed, 87-52. All eight Harford County delegates and three senators voted against the bill.

Glassman said the bill has too many loopholes.

He said the bill does not have a provision for contract killing in witness intimidation cases and does not allow for a photograph of a murder or fingerprints to count as evidence that would allow for the death penalty.

Jennings said he is against the bill because there is other evidence other than specified biological evidence that could prove someone was guilty.

“I support the death penalty and that bill narrows it down to a small list of evidence that it could be applied to,” he said.

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