Towson Legislators Consider Speed Cameras, Fetal Homicide Statute Among Issues for 2012 Session

… 42nd District senator, delegates eye Annapolis bills …

By Jon Meoli,

2:11 PM EST, December 9, 2011

State legislators from the Towson area are gearing up for the upcoming General Assembly by preparing bills they plan to sponsor when the Annapolis session opens on Jan. 11, 2012.

State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat who represents Towson in the 42nd District, said he’ll offer a measure to more clearly define the use of State Highway Administration speed cameras — and crusade against what he calls an unnecessary use of the cameras in work zones when crews are not present.

Brochin specifically cited the $55 million project to replace the existing Charles Street bridge over the Beltway in the Towson area.

“The whole intent of speed cameras on highways was for worker safety, but if you take a look at September, October, November, there’s nobody working there,” Brochin said. “There were people working on a bridge 200 feet above (traffic) … and that white SUV sits there snapping pictures and nabbing people.

“There’s nothing stopping them from keeping those cameras there for the next five years, even if the construction is complete,” he said.

SHA speed cameras are set to issue citations fining car owners when the vehicle exceeds the speed limit by 12 miles per hour or more in work zones.

The camera at the Charles Street work zone has been in operation since November 2009 and, according to figures on the SHA website, that location has seen the third-highest number of speed camera-recorded violations among the state’s active sites — 106,069 violations, through Oct. 31, 2011.

At $40 per citation, that equates to $4,242,760.

The highest number of citations have been issued at the I-95 intersection with the Beltway and I-895, where 359,544 tickets have been issued since November 2009.

The second-highest is at Liberty Road and the Beltway, where 181,728 citations have been recorded since June 2010, according to the data on the SHA website.

Brochin said the SHA asked for the cameras to be allowed as a means to protect workers, but he said keeping the cameras at locations where work isn’t being done is unfair to citizens, and leaves active work sites less safe.

“There’s no safety issue (at Charles Street),” Brochin said. “Move the cameras to an active work site.”

On Dec. 8, the SHA announced another highway speed camera will be activated on the Baltimore Beltway, on the outer loop near the Frederick Road interchange, beginning on Jan. 3.

The camera near Frederick Road — a location that Brochin said he suggested could use a camera instead of Charles Street— will be the fourth work zone in Baltimore County with speed cameras.

Last year, Brochin introduced a bill that would limit the use of speed cameras in construction zones to times when workers are actually present, but the SHA offered a compromise that included a provision to evaluate work zones, and ensure that no speed camera use would occur after construction activities cease that warrant safety concerns.

Recycling mandate for apartments

Meanwhile, Del. Stephen Lafferty, also of the 42nd District, has pre-filed a bill that requires apartment complexes statewide to provide recycling services. It’s a measure he and Brochin championed last year, and hope to pass this time around.

“A lot of people who are in apartments now who want to recycle don’t have the option to do so,” said Lafferty, a Democrat.

Last year, the same bill passed in the House of Delegates, but didn’t make it through the Senate before the session ended.

Currently, it’s up to each jurisdiction to decide whether they provide recycling services to apartment buildings. Baltimore County presently offers recycling to apartment buildings, but other counties do not.

Pre-filing the bill guarantees that it will get early consideration in the session.

“If there are issues or challenges, you have more time to work them out,” Brochin said. “If you’re not filing until the deadline (during the session), you might get a hearing but you might not have enough time to work out disagreements.”

Fetal homicide bill

Del. Bill Frank, a Republican from the 42nd District, said he was unable to pre-file a bill before the Dec. 2 deadline, but he’s looking for co-sponsors on a bill that would expand the state’s fetal homicide laws to include the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy.

Under the current statute, a doctor needs to prove that the fetus was viable — meaning it could survive outside of the womb at the time of the woman’s death.

That stipulation was notably used in a 2007 case regarding a shooting in Parkville, when David Miller was charged with murdering both Elizabeth Walters and her unborn child after doctors concluded that the fetus was viable.

“My bill would be to expand that to cover all nine months of pregnancy,” Frank said.

The difference can also be illustrated in a recent homicide that has yet to go to trial.

Alicia Avery was pregnant when she and her 4-year-old daughter, Darry’el Parker, were murdered in June at a Parkville hotel. But the accused, Brian Eggleston Jr., is being charged with two homicide counts, not three, because State’s Attorney Scott Schellenberger said he doesn’t believe they can prove the unborn child was viable.

Should Frank’s proposed bill become law, future cases of that type would be tried differently.

“We think that every death should be accounted for,” said Scott Schellenberger, state’s attorney for Baltimore County. “In the Miller case, we were able to prove viability, and we wanted to hold him accountable for that.”

“Should Bill Frank get the statute changed, we’d be happy to follow whatever law there is.”

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