City Mulls Future State Bills Of Importance

OCEAN CITY – The City Council looked ahead to 2009 legislative initiatives this week, compiling a list of proposed legislation to be submitted though the Maryland Municipal League (MML).

Kathy Mathias, Assistant to the City Manager, presented the City Council with potential MML 2009 legislative initiatives this week, taking suggestions from the council as well.

Tax differential will be on the forefront once again for Ocean City, with legislation going forward in 2009 in an attempt to get tax differential or property tax set-offs. Tax differential has been put forth through the MML since 2003, with no significant changes as of yet from the county.

Electric aggregation, legislation that would allow municipalities to aggregate electric supply for their residential customers, has been put forth unsuccessfully since 2000.

The “opt out” legislation would essentially provide electricity to municipal residents at lower rates by purchasing the electricity in bulk. The legislation would allow residential customers of the municipality to gather and buy electricity at a bulk rate, providing competitive pricing in the market and ultimately reducing electric bill rates.

States such as Ohio have successfully implemented the “opt out” legislation, and as a result have created competitive electric supply prices for residents.

Mathias explained this week that while the legislation has been proposed to the MML each year by the town, there is no need to do so again this year. According to Mathias, City Engineer Terry McGean suggested not putting forth the legislation this year, “because it’s so much in the forefront that it probably doesn’t need to be submitted again.”

Councilman Lloyd Martin suggested drafting and submitting legislation that would require helmets for individuals riding mopeds or scooters. Martin explained that he has received numerous requests on the matter, particularly in regard to rental scooters.

The council has fielded questions over the issue before, but essentially have their hands tied without state law. Without the law, the town could mandate the use of helmets on city roads, but scooter and moped riders would still ride helmet free along the state-owned Coastal Highway.

Councilman Jay Hancock broached another topic.

“We’ve had some discussion about amending the state code regarding second degree assault,” said Hancock.

Currently in Maryland, misdemeanor arrests that are made without a warrant and without the eyewitness account of the arresting officer can only be made if the crime is included on a selected list of offenses. Currently second-degree assault is not included in that list. As a result, local law enforcement can only make an arrest for second-degree assault if they see the assault take place, or if they obtain a warrant, which requires the suspects identification. Because the resort has a constant flow of seasonal, weekly and daily visitors, many second-degree assault suspects slip through the cracks, never being brought to justice.

Legislation regarding the issue would seek to change the definition and parameters of second-degree assault, making it easier for officers to investigate, explained Hancock.

“It is something that is going to be brought up at MML and hopefully at MACO,” said Hancock.

Mathias suggested the council revisit the proposed legislation at Monday night’s meeting when both Mayor Rich Meehan and Councilman Jim Hall could be present to add their input on the potential legislative initiatives.