Is smoking a right or hazard?
Bill would ban lighting up in vehicles with kids
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.”
Lisa Polinori on Tuesday walks her Boston terrier, Enzodog, in Baltimore while riding a unicycle.