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VEIP exemptions for county sought

January 20, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County's state lawmakers will again try to exempt local residents from the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program.

Keeping a campaign promise, newly sworn-in Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, asked the eight-member Washington County delegation on Wednesday to renew the VEIP fight, which was last lost in 1996.

"I think we owe it to our constituents to give it another shot," said Shank.

The members agreed to back the legislation, although Del. Sue Hecht was skeptical about such a bill's chances.

"We can go ahead and try but I don't think it's going to be successful," said Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington.

In 1996, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Delegates 130 to 7.

But it was killed by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, recently was appointed to that committee.

He said he supports the idea and will work to see that the same thing doesn't happen this time around.

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"Sounds like fun," he said.

While the delegation gained an advocate in the Senate, it lost one in the House of Delegates.

Retired Del. J. Anita Stup had served on the House Environmental Matters Committee, which will review the emissions legislation.

The emissions inspection test costs motorists $12 and is required every two years.

On cars built from 1977 through 1983, emissions from the tailpipes of idling vehicles are tested.

There's a more comprehensive treadmill test for cars built since 1984.

Many motorists have blasted the treadmill test for being intrusive, time-consuming and potentially damaging to vehicles.

But lawmakers admitted they aren't hearing as many complaints lately.

"People aren't as angry as they were in '95," Shank said. "But it's still a thorn in the side of our constituents."

"The sad part is it doesn't make the air any cleaner in Baltimore and D.C.," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

During the campaign last year, Shank had criticized his opponent, then Del. D. Bruce Poole, for being the only county lawmaker to vote for the program.

Poole said the state is under a federal mandate to reduce air pollution.

Had legislators not created the vehicle emissions program, they would have had to clamp down on industry, which would have cost jobs, Poole said.

Garrett and Allegany counties were exempt from the original law.

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