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Speed cameras and 'Fair Share'

April 22, 2009

In the Maryland General Assembly session just passed, it wasn't the multi-billion dollar budget that caused the most controversy, but some smaller bills that could potentially affect citizens every day.

The first, the speed-camera bill, would authorize placing monitoring cameras near schools and in highway work zones. The second, known as the "Fair Share" bill, would require all state workers to pay union dues, whether or not they're union members.

The speed-camera bill mandates that those whose vehicles are traveling more than 12 miles above the posted limit be mailed a $40 ticket. But they would receive no points on their licenses.

Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign the bill, but on Monday The Baltimore Sun reported that Daniel F. Zubairi, a former congressional candidate from Montgomery County, was starting a petition drive to get the law repealed.

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Zubairi, like other critics, says he believes the law is designed to raise money and denies the ticketed person the right to face an accuser.

To prevail, Zubairi and his group must get 53,000 signatures from registered voters. The Sun said that task was been made more difficult by a 2008 Court of Appeals ruling that every signature must be an identical match to the one in voter-registration files.

That means that if "Jonathan Smith" signs as "Jon Smith," his signature could be invalidated.

Of course motorists should be especially careful in school and highway work zones, because there are likely to be more pedestrians in those areas. And in both areas, the people on foot might not be concentrating on the traffic around them.

But the bill was passed before completion of a speed-camera pilot program in Montgomery County. Wouldn't it have made sense - and possibly cut opposition to the bill - to see what problems turned up there?

Another potential problem is possible future changes to the law. For example, in 1997, Maryland passed a law allowing police to ticket motorists for not wearing their seat belts. Prior to that, a 1986 law required seat-belt use, but allowed police to ticket only those drivers stopped for another violation.

The next logical extension of the speed-camera law would be to increase fines and/or charge points for a violation. Or, some might reason, why not speed cameras on every street?

Such fears drive much of the opposition to this bill. Sponsors should have waited until the Montgomery County trial ended before moving this bill forward.

It's tough to find any justification for the so-called "Fair Share" bill. Not only would it require nonunion members to pay union dues, it would also force them to join AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

That means members of MCEA, the Maryland Classified Employees Association, would have to become AFSCME members. This reeks of a totalitarian dictatorship in which those who don't belong to the state-mandated party are denied certain citizenship rights.

Yes, those who accept benefits negotiated by the unions without paying dues are getting a free ride. But it's up to AFSCME to persuade them to join, instead of beating them over the head with a legislative stick.

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