Pressing ahead on backing up

April 17, 2001

Pressing ahead on backing up

The 2001 legislative session is over and some very important things were accomplished.

For example, fire engines can now use their flashing lights when they back into their stations. I know I'm sleeping easier at night.

You might think 1.) why do we need a law for this? and 2.) it was illegal for fire engines to use their flashing lights when backing into their stations before?

Well, you would be stupid, for of course we do and of course it was. Apparently some helpful citizen pointed out that it was unlawful for these trucks to use their lights unless they were headed to an actual emergency, such as an overheated toaster oven at Walnut Towers.


Don't tell anyone, but this has very serious implications for the Mummers' Parade. I mean, just a plain old unlit fire engine rolling down the parade route like any old Tucson recreational vehicle is not going to impress the kiddies. "Make it DO something mom! Waaaaa!"

Maybe they can stick a cat or an overheated toaster oven up a tree at the end of the parade route so, technically, they are all headed for an emergency.

But fortunately not all of our delegation's time was spent on the great Fire Engine Backing-Up Rights Act of 2001.

They still, I don't know how, had time to pass a law - yes, a law - that allows Prime Outlets to hold sidewalk sales.

OK Perry Mason, your witness: Isn't it true that Prime Outlets owns the land? And isn't it true that the stores in Prime Outlets own the merchandise? And isn't it true that in this county any Patsy Packrat can clean out the sweat-stained, moth-eaten contents of her attic and strew it all over her front lawn until it looks like a post-tornado trailer park and charge people for shopping there?

That was Prime Outlet's mistake. Instead of calling it a sidewalk sale it should have called it a yard sale.

But instead, we have to go to Annapolis, write a bill to petition the General Assembly, pass it through the Washington County delegation, hold committee hearings in the House, hold committee hearings in the Senate, pass it through three readings on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates, pass it through three readings on the floor of the Maryland State Senate and send the bill to the executive offices of the State House so the governor of the State of Maryland himself can sign it - all so Nike can stick a rack of sweatpants outside its front door.

With all this on its plate it is a wonder the delegation could find time to "Close a loophole in Washington County's liquor laws that allowed the inmate population at the state prison complex to count toward new liquor licenses."

Mighty egregious loophole, that one.

You mean to tell me that all these years inmates have counted toward the allocation of liquor licenses? And we have still lived to tell about it?

Obviously, this is more than just some bar owner looking for ways to cut down on potential competition, or a NIMBY against a next-door liquor store. But even so, I worry about the constitutional implications.

Inmates by law must be counted in the Census. So isn't there a danger this could violate the discredited "Old Crow Laws" or the "one man, one drink" doctrine laid out in the 1964 Supreme Court case of Reynolds vs. Gin?

Seriously. Inmates can't drink, so they shouldn't be counted? Well, 6-year-old kids can't drink either, but technically they count when calculating - uh-oh. Better shut up, or I'll give the delegation ideas for next year's legislative agenda.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at

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