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We'll hold on for 'deer' life in legislature

January 11, 2000

If you're looking for a good legislative agenda to get behind as the Maryland General Assembly fires into action this week, may I suggest you need look no further than the goals set forth by Del. Joe Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington.

In a legislative preview in a regional publication, one State House correspondent wrote that Bartlett "has plans to restore respect to the teaching profession and reduce the number of deer killed on the state's roads."

I couldn't agree more on these priorities. Although I know how the legislature works, and with our luck they'll end up restoring respect to deer and passing a law to keep teachers from jumping out in front of cars.

Now that I think about it, though, respect for teachers is overrated. If you give them respect, then they'll want decent pay and then they'll want parents to be responsible and then they'll want administrators to leave them the heck alone so they can just teach already - there will be no end to it.

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If I'm passing the laws, I'm willing to go as far as "grudging admiration," but out-and-out respect just opens up too many cans of worms.

But the deer issue, there's one I can fully endorse because I'm guessing Joe Bartlett has noticed the same thing I have, which is that the interstates are lined with more carcasses than a Hormel meat packing plant.

The corpses are so thick that on Halloween I was considering charging the deer admission to walk up and down I-70 as part of a cervine spine chilling haunted house tour.

Even so, it's not as bad as Pennsylvania, where if I were PennDOT I'd simply strap a sausage grinder onto a snowplow and turn a profit. Pappa PennDOT's Pure Potted Porklike Patty Product. Now with 50 percent fewer antlers. Umm-mm.

Bartlett's plan doesn't involve a sausage grinder, but it would require cars licensed in Maryland to be equipped with those tiny, silent whistles you see advertised in the Spencer Gifts catalog right next to the novelty beer-barrel corn holders and ice cube trays shaped like Richard Nixon.

The whistles, which can only be heard by deer and state lawmakers, are wind-activated and theoretically emit a high-pitched noise that sends deer scurrying in the other direction when your car comes within a half-mile or so.

A mandatory deer whistle program shouldn't cost the state too much money to set up, since they could just piggyback the bureaucracy on the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP).

Every other year you would get your Deer Inspection Program (DeIP) notification along with your Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program notification and you would take your car into the state testing garage.

First they would put your car on a treadmill to check the exhaust, then they would put it in a wind tunnel to check the silent whistles. The state would have a deer standing in a nearby pen, and if it clamps its hooves over its ears and screams "Noooo!!" then you pass.

Best of all, the state MVA would be able to charge you $35 for the service of testing your deer whistles, making it a win-win for both the deer and the state treasury.

For the Maryland motorist, it's a small price to pay to know there won't be a deer lurking behind every tree just waiting for the chance to accordion your sheet metal.

And who knows, this could be the beginning of many great state-critter programs. I don't want to say this too loud in case Joe Bartlett may be listening, but I have noticed a lot of flattened groundhogs by the side of the road lately.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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