Is smok­ing a right or haz­ard?

Bill would ban light­ing up in ve­hi­cles with kids

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID HILL

AN­NAPO­LIS | Sup­port­ers of a ban on smok­ing in­side ve­hi­cles with child pas­sen­gers say the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion is strictly a health con­cern while op­po­nents say it’s yet an­other at­tack on in­di­vid­ual rights.

The full Se­nate opened de­bate Tues­day on the leg­is­la­tion, which would fine driv­ers as much as $50 if they or a pas­sen­ger are caught smok­ing in a ve­hi­cle with a pas­sen­ger 8 or younger.

The House En­vi­ron­men­tal Mat­ters Com­mit­tee heard tes­ti­mony Tues­day on a sim­i­lar bill.

Spon­sors say the bill could re­duce the num­ber of long-term ill­nesses caused by sec­ond­hand smoke, but op­po­nents ar­gue the state could be over­step­ping its boundaries by re­strict­ing mo­torists’ be­hav­ior in­side their own ve­hi­cles.

“It just doesn’t make much sense to me,” said Sen. Ed­ward R. Reilly, Anne Arun­del Re­pub­li­can. “This is just an­other op­por­tu­nity for po­lice off icers to im­pose them­selves in our daily lives.”

The Se­nate bill, spon­sored by Sen. Jen­nie M. Fore­hand, would con­sider smok­ing with a child to be a pri­mary of­fense, al­low­ing po­lice to pull over a mo­torist who is oth­er­wise obey­ing all other traf­fic laws. How­ever, the of­fense would not be con­sid­er­ing a mov­ing vi­o­la­tion.

Sev­eral states have adopted sim­i­lar bans for ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing chil­dren as old as 17.

Mrs. Fore­hand, Mont­gomery Demo­crat, cited stud­ies that have linked sec­ond­hand smoke to asthma and other life­long ill­nesses in chil­dren and said a ban would help to pro­tect youths while also curb­ing the state’s

on in­come, In­ter­net pur­chases, cigars and other items and in­stead cut $130 mil­lion from agency ex­penses, $185 mil­lion from higher ed­u­ca­tion and $101 mil­lion from Med­i­caid.

It would also cut lo­cal aid to Bal­ti­more and the state’s 23 coun­ties by slash­ing $205 mil­lion from lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion, elim­i­nat­ing grants for law en­force­ment and re­duc­ing dis­par­ity grants for less af­flu­ent coun­ties.

Prince Ge­orge’s County would stand to lose the most fund­ing, $77 mil­lion, while Bal­ti­more would lose $60 mil­lion and Mont­gomery County would lose $51 mil­lion.

Demo­cratic lead­ers ar­gued the cuts could hurt the state’s qual­ity of life, but some Repub­li­cans praised the pro­posal as a step in the right di­rec­tion for a state that has in­creased spend­ing by nearly $6 bil­lion since Mr. O’mal­ley took of­fice in 2007.

“A con­ser­va­tive Re­pub­li­can might call it liv­ing within your means,” said Sen. Richard F. Col­burn, Dorch­ester Re­pub­li­can. “Ev­ery­body else is tight­en­ing their belts and this tightens a lot of belts.”

Se­nate bud­get sub­com­mit­tees are cur­rently re­view­ing po­ten­tial cuts and are ex­pected to make their rec­om­men­da­tions this week to the full Bud­get and Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee.

Mr. Miller said he still ex­pects rev­enue in­creases to be a ma­jor part of the equa­tion in the Demo­crat-con­trolled Gen­eral Assem­bly but that law­mak­ers could take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach than the gov­er­nor.

Mr. Miller thinks the Se­nate will es­chew the gov­er­nor’s pro­posed tax hikes on the top 20 per­cent of in­come earn­ers in Mary­land and in­stead con­sider a pro­posal by Sen. Roger Manno, Mont­gomery Demo­crat, to in­crease in­come-tax rates by 0.25 per­cent in ev­ery bracket.

Mr. Miller added that law­mak­ers may also add to state spend­ing by choos­ing to grad­u­ally phase in a shift of teacher­pen­sion costs to coun­ties, re­ject­ing the gov­er­nor’s plan to in­sti­tute an im­me­di­ate 50-50 split that would save the state money but cost coun­ties an ex­tra $239 mil­lion.

“We have a spend­ing prob­lem that we need to bring in line,” said Sen. Ge­orge C. Ed­wards, Gar­rett Re­pub­li­can. “I think if they just raise taxes to bal­ance things out, there are go­ing to be a lot of peo­ple in for a rude awak­en­ing.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lisa Poli­nori on Tues­day walks her Bos­ton ter­rier, Enzodog, in Bal­ti­more while rid­ing a uni­cy­cle.

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