Here’s some thoughts on this year’s General Assembly session, which wrapped this week.
… For the second year in a row, a seemingly innocuous bill okaying a limited number of slot machines at fraternal organizations around Worcester failed to be approved by the legislature. It was a mild surprise the legislation did not pass last year, considering it was essentially a matter of local courtesy with the County Commissioners and the Ocean City Mayor and Council backing it. It’s a shocker it did not get approved once again this year.
Currently, Worcester is the only jurisdiction on Maryland’s Eastern Shore prohibiting slots in the fraternal clubs. It has been said the significant funds these organizations currently dole out to the community will soar if slots are brought in. Approximately $200,000 in additional money could be pumped back into the community, officials have estimated. In 2006, last available figures, 49 such Eastern Shore organizations operated roughly 250 slot machines, donating about $3.5 million to charity, fraternal officials say.
Conspiracy theories abounded for much of the week after the bill died on the Senate’s table again this year. A couple folks have publicly pointed the finger at Senate President Mike Miller as the source of the bill’s failure. Delegate Jim Mathias, sponsor of the bill, seemed to agree.
Whatever the case, it’s a shame that a bizarre game of political might has blocked this bill once again. It’s our hope the legislation will be introduced again next session, marking the third straight year. However, between now and then, some serious lobbying, most effectively by local service club members, has to be orchestrated to change the minds of Miller and the other senators that have a problem with it.
… Over heard the other day: “What’s the point of creating a law that’s unenforceable?” The man, a father of two teen-aged daughters, was referring to the text message while driving ban authorized by legislators during this year’s session. I understand where this guy is coming from, but it’s worth remembering many laws on the books these days are unenforceable. There are many examples. My feeling is if this texting-driving ban deters some people then it’s a success. The fact is many motorists will still do it, and that will be evident up and down Coastal Highway this summer, but there’s no question it’s a dangerous practice and at least now it’s a law. I think that alone, and the punishable fine, will discourage the use among some drivers. If it accomplishes that, then it’s a worthwhile law to have on the books.
— Speed cameras could be coming to a traffic light near you. More specifically, to locations close to where your kids go to school and in highway work zones. This bill was a divisive one in Annapolis this year with Democrats largely supporting the proliferation of the cameras, which are currently only used in Montgomery County, and Republicans largely opposed, pointing to the expansion of Big Brother-like tactics and an infringement of civil liberties. It has been reported vehicles traveling 12 or more mph over the posted speed limit will receive a $40 fine in the mail and possibly points on their license. No word on how many cameras will be heading to our area.
— Every summer there’s a fad item on Ocean City’s Boardwalk. One summer not too long ago, laser pointers were a problem, until elected officials restricted them. Last summer, the hip new item, among teenagers particularly, was Salvia, a hallucinogenic plant sold by merchants on the Boardwalk. It comes in a variety of forms and can be eaten or smoked. Most popular among some is the liquid form. The bill prohibiting the sale to anyone under 21 years old passed the House without a dissenter but failed to get to the Senate floor. Any state effort to regulate Salvia may be held up by the fact the federal government’s Drug Enforcement Administration is still studying it and has classified it unofficially as a drug of concern. This bill will likely be back, particularly if the demand continues for it.