Speeding council member to take driver-safety course
PG police official defends officer’s handling of ticket
Security costs that would force Baltimore and the state’s 23 counties to collectively pay an extra $239 million this year.
Counties have widely panned the proposal, saying they have already made major cuts in recent years and that added costs will only make things worse.
“We’ve made major, major adjustments,” said Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, a Democrat. “This is simply something that is not workable. It is something that we cannot absorb.”
Legislators also complained that it reached too far into the state’s middle class.
Maryland teacher-pension costs have essentially tripled in the past decade as counties have improved retirement packages to attract and retain personnel. The state paid nearly $1 billion in pension costs last year.
A growing sentiment has emerged within the General Assembly that counties should begin sharing the costs. Mr. O’malley had resisted such efforts since taking office in 2007 before proposing a split this year to help trim the state’s $1.1 billion structural deficit.
“At the current stage, the state can’t afford to carry the full freight,” said Sen. David R. Brinkley, Frederick Republican. “If there’s an alternative solution to shifting, I’m open to it. But no one has come forth with it.”
Mr. Brinkley and other Republicans
The Prince George’s County Council member clocked driving at least 105 mph in her county vehicle — but not ticketed for speeding — says she will give up the car until she completes a driver-safety course.
The county police department, facing scrutiny about whether council member Karen R. Toles received preferential treatment, says a team of top brass and legal analysts in the department will begin a review of the incident next week.
Ms. Toles was pulled over after an officer observed her driving on the Capital Beltway at a high rate of speed and making unsafe lane changes. She was issued a $90 ticket for the unsafe lane change but only a warning for excessive speed, even though police said she was traveling more than 50 mph over the speed limit.
Assistant Chief Kevin Davis defended the officer’s decision not to issue Ms. Toles a speeding ticket, saying the 14-year department veteran who stopped her is assigned to an administrative job rather than patrol and was unable to establish the exact speed Ms. Toles was traveling. The officer did not have a radar gun, nor was he able to “pace” her to establish her speed. The 105 mph figure comes from the speed recorded on the officer’s car as he tried to catch up with her, he said.
“The officer did believe he had probable cause for one citation and he felt he didn’t have quite enough probable cause to issue a citation for the speed, so he elected to issue a warning citation,” Assistant Chief Davis said at a news conference Wednesday.
“Preliminarily, we don’t believe that this police officer afforded anyone special treatment,” he said.
Ms. Toles apologized to constituents in a statement Wednesday about the Feb. 22 incident.
“In addition to paying the appropriate fine, I will not be driving a county owned vehicle until voluntarily completing a driver improvement course to ensure my safety and the safety of others,” she said in the statement.
On Tuesday, when news of the incident broke, Ms. Toles said she was leaving a meeting and was late to her next appointment at the time she was pulled over.
Ms. Toles, a Democrat, was ticketed
have proposed deeper cuts in the state budget that could free up enough money for the state to pay all or most of teacher-pension costs.
A state commission recommended last year that lawmakers phase in a shift over multiple years rather than jumping immediately to a 50-50 split.
County leaders argued Wednesday that an even split will hurt counties and that conditions will only get worse in coming years as pension costs are expected to increase.
They also expressed concerns about lawmakers’ proposed changes to the state’s maintenance-of-effort law, which requires counties each year to meet or exceed the previous year’s per-pupil funding for education.
The assembly is considering bills that could add teeth to the law, closing a loophole that allows counties to reduce funding and pay a one-time penalty, then use the reduced funding level as their acceptable minimum for future years.
Several counties used the method last year to seek relief from the law but now worry about a stricter funding mandate putting them in further financial peril.
“We are really squeezed,” said Howard County Council Chairman Mary Kay Sigaty, a Democrat. “I see the state budget as being much broader and able to perhaps absorb some costs.”
Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, Prince George’s Democrat, said state legislators have sympathy for the counties but that they have their own budget woes to worry about.
He said the assembly could consider giving extra revenues to counties or phasing in the pension shift. But he’s not sure how much ground state lawmakers will give.
“To try to make up that is going to be very difficult unless we make some deep cuts,” Mr. Peters said.
Protesters against Maryland Gov. Martin O’malley’s proposal to reduce tax deductions for some homeowners demonstrate on the Lawyer’s Mall across from the State House on Wednesday in Annapolis.