Why the Turnaround on Speed Cameras?
Oh what a difference a day can make in the Maryland General Assembly.
On Wednesday night, a bill to authorize the use of cameras to catch speeders in highway work areas and school zones across the state died in the senate on a 23 to 24 vote.
On Thursday, the bill was quickly revived and passed, on a 27 to 20 vote.
So what gives?
The key to the quick turnaround might have been foreseen in a scene that played out on the Senate floor, just after the conclusion of Wednesday night's floor session.
Supporters and opponents of the bill had been surprised when the bill failed. Senators let out an audible gasp. No less an authority than Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) had a day earlier predicted its passage.
But after a vigorous debate on the issue, where supporters argued the cameras make roads safer and opponents called them an intrusion of privacy intended as cash cow for local governments, Miller voted against the bill. So did Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's), a top Miller ally.
As the session concluded, Sen. James N. Robey (D-Howard) buttoned-holed Miller as he descended from senate chamber's dais.
Robey, a former Howard County police chief, had been one of the measure's strongest proponents. He had sponsored an amendment a day earlier to broaden the Senate proposal to include school zones, the passage of which had been seen as an indication of the bill's likely success.
Now, he was visibly distraught. Miller could be heard telling Robey that his "no" vote had not been intended as a slight and that no one would think less of Robey because the bill failed.
Miller then put his arm around the loyal Democrat and led him out of the chamber, to a more private location.
Did the conversation make a difference?
After the bill's revival the next day, Miller specifically said he had been disheartened by the ribbing Robey took from his colleagues after it failed Wednesday night.
"Rather than have him disrespected, we resurrected the bill," Miller said.
Miller said he was willing to support the bill after reaching an understanding with other
Senate leaders that no bills authorizing individual counties to have speed cameras would be approved this year.
-- Rosalind S. Helderman and John Wagner
April 3, 2009; 3:23 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly , Rosalind Helderman
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