Fees for Bad Driving?

Fees for Bad Driving?

Annapolis Roundup: Potomac legislators target driving, sales tax.

State Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-15) has been introducing bills related to “teleworking” and driver safety.

On Jan. 27 he introduced the Driver Responsibility and First Responders Fund Act (Senate Bill 275) along with 29 Senate colleagues.

Under the bill, the MVA would assess additional fees against bad drivers. An individual would be assessed $50 for each moving violation point and $600 for each drunk or drugged driving conviction. The State of New Jersey has had a similar program for nearly 20 years and raised approximately $134 million in 2003. The fiscal note from last year’s bill, which differs from this year’s bill, noted that the program could raise over $25 million once fully phased in; however, this estimate is only based on a 55 percent payment compliance rate.

Seventy-five percent of the monies raised would be transferred to the Transportation Trust Fund to further meet our numerous transportation needs. The remaining 25 percent of the monies would be used for a First Responders Fund.

The teleworking bills, Senate Bills 115 and 117, create tax benefits for companies that allow their employees to telework, or work from home over the internet, and require the state to establish public agency targets for teleworking. Teleworking reduces pollution and rush hour traffic congestion and provides new work opportunities for the disabled and elderly and citizens in rural communities.

Garagiola is planning to hold a town hall style meeting in Potomac. The date, time, and location will be announced next week.

DEL. JEAN CRYOR (R-15) plans to introduce her “Sales Tax-Free Back to School Shopping” bill in the House of Delegates Ways and Means committee on Thursday, Feb. 3. The bill allows clothing and shoes to be purchased tax-free in a week shortly before the beginning of school -- Aug. 24-28 this year. There is no limit on total purchases, but each transaction must be $100 or less.

Cryor first proposed the measure in 2000. Washington D.C. and New York City have similar measures already in place. "With the budget deficit in Maryland over the past years, I have not pushed this bill." Cryor said. "[But] our fiscal situation has improved in Maryland, it is time for this ‘mom's bill’ to return."

Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the comptroller, will testify for the bill.

“When people are deciding where to go during that important shopping week, I do not want Delaware's no sales tax policy to lure the Maryland mom there," Cryor said.

On the contrary, she said, “We want to encourage shoppers in nearby Pennsylvania, Virginia, [and] Washington to come to Maryland."

"Every Maryland dollar spent in Delaware or in Pennsylvania where there is no sales tax on clothing, is a loss for Maryland's economy,” she said.

ON JAN. 28, Del. Bill Bronrott (D-16) introduced three long-planned bills — House Bills 393, 394, and 395 — aimed at improving teen driver safety.

The three measures would prohibit non-related teen passengers during the first six months of the 18-month provisional driving period; ban cell phone use by teen drivers with learner’s permits and provisional licenses; and increase the number of required parent-supervised driving hours during the learner’s permit period. The National Transportation Safety Board and numerous other safety groups support the legislation.

“It was extraordinary in that we were able to win the co-sponsorships of the majority of the members of the House of Delegates for each of the three bills in a very bipartisan and geographically diverse way,” Bronrott said.

The passenger law bill has 71 co-sponsors and the other two bills each have 75 co-sponsors.

“It doesn’t mean that each of the bills will get 71 votes because things change … but it was a very good sign that this issue and these bills are gaining a head of steam,” Bronrott said. “In my seven years here, it is the first time that I’ve seen this much of an outpouring of support and it’s encouraging to see. … But we still have a long way to go and I’m not taking anything for granted.

The bills will be considered in a Feb. 9 House Environmental Matters Committee hearing.

Bronrott also introduced his bill that will assess a fine on the registration of so-called super-sized SUVs and is the House sponsor of Garagiola’s Driver Responsibility and First Responders Fund act.