City Opts To Submit New Ideas For Future Legislation

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council decided which legislative issues they would be submitting to the Maryland Municipal League (MML) for consideration during the next legislative session, deciding to withdraw two seasoned pieces of legislation and submit two new ones.

The City Council reviewed the proposed legislation at a work session last week, agreeing to hold off on the final decision until Monday night, when Councilman Jim Hall and Mayor Rick Meehan could be present for input.

Assistant to the City Manager Kathy Mathias presented the council with recommendations from the department heads last week, which included electric aggregation and tax differential.

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 municipality 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.

Mathis explained last week that while the legislation has been put forth to the MML each year by the town, there is no need to do so again this year, as it will already be a front-runner issue.

Tax differential has been put forth through the MML since 2003, with no significant changes as of yet from the county. The Mayor and Council agreed to back off the tax differential issues on the state level this year, deciding instead to move forward with local negotiations with the county.

“I think what maybe we need to do is continue our dialogue with the County Commissioners,” said Meehan.

Two new pieces of legislation will be submitted this year from the town via MML, regarding second-degree assault and mopeds.

Last week, 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 regards 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 Coastal Highway, which is state owned.

Mathias presented some background information on the law this week, submitting prior legislation regarding the change.

Currently, moped riders are not required to wear a helmet, cannot exceed 30 mph and cannot travel along highways with speed limits above 50 mph.

In 2006, House Bill 496 dealt with the issue with legislation suggesting that riders under 21 be required to wear helmets. The law would allow riders over 21 to ride without a helmet, if they could produce valid proof of insurance. The bill was unsuccessful.

The second bill being put forth by the town deals with police arrests and second-degree assault. 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.

A police officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if he or she has probable cause to believe the enumerated offenses are manslaughter by vehicle, malicious burning or attempt, malicious mischief or attempt, theft or attempted theft, false alarm of a fire, indecent exposure, crime related to controlled or dangerous substances, wearing, carrying or transporting a concealed weapon or handgun, and prostitution.

The legislation would seek to add second-degree assault and fourth degree sex-offense to that list, allowing local law enforcement to make the arrest without a warrant.

“I think both of them would be good additions to the MML agenda,” said Councilman Jay Hancock, a former cop, of the two proposed pieces of legislation.