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Emissions bill misses House deadline

February 17, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - The campaign to give Washington County residents a break from the vehicle emissions test has gotten off to a rocky start.

Due to a drafting error, the county legislative delegation missed the House of Delegates bill introduction deadline Thursday night.

The mistake was not caught in the Senate's companion bill, which will have to be amended at a public hearing set for next Tuesday.

But Del. Christopher B. Shank, the delegation's lead advocate for exempting local residents from the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, said the administrative glitches shouldn't hurt the bill.

"The logistics of it, I'm not concerned about," said Shank, R-Washington, who persuaded the delegation to try for the exemption because of feedback he got from residents while campaigning last fall.

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Shank said he believes emissions tests should not be conducted in Washington County as long as the area meets federal clean air standards.

With moderate levels of ozone, Washington County has more in common with Garrett and Allegany counties, which are exempt from the test.

Legislation that would have kept the tailpipe test but eliminated the more intrusive treadmill test, passed the House of Delegates but died in the Senate in 1996.

Next Tuesday, Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, will present the amended bill to his colleagues on the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Its reception there will help the delegation decide what strategy to pursue, Shank said.

The process for this legislation is a little different from most sought by the delegation, which are introduced in the House and then sent to the Senate.

"I salute (Mooney) for being willing to take the lead on the Senate side. It doubles our chances," Shank said.

But there's little doubt that the bill has an uphill fight.

Unlike in 1996, the legislature is being pressured by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cement the program's future.

"I think there's a little different climate. I think it may be a little more difficult," said Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Washington County was included in the program because the federal government considers it part of the Washington Metropolitan area.

But getting the House bill off the ground should not be a problem, McKee said, even though Thursday was the final day in which submitted bills would go directly to a regular committee and be guaranteed a hearing and a vote.

The bill will go to the Rules Committee, which will take into consideration the drafting mistake. The bill will likely then go to the Environmental Matters Committee for review.

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