The hope with the reinvented special event zone legislation working through the Maryland General Assembly currently in Annapolis is local courtesy will win out.
It’s what should have happened last year, but partisan whining over the previous year’s election results derailed it. In the 2018 election, the state’s Republicans went hard after sitting and ranking Democrats. The 2019 session was a year of retribution against Senator Mary Beth Carozza and Delegate Wayne Hartman who worked fervently alongside Gov. Larry Hogan to unseat several Democrats. Though successful on some fronts, the efforts were not enough to reach the governor’s goal of stripped the Democrats of their veto override power.
With a change in leadership in the House of Delegates and Senate, there seems to be a sense of optimism about the companion bills seeking to add more tools for law enforcement to the existing special events zone.
Lobbyist Bruce Bereano put it this way. “We need to give law enforcement other tools than just a paper citation that they just tear up in front of the police and call them every ugliness in the book,” he said. “It’s really totally out of control.”
Bereano was referring to how offenders during the H2Oi weekend in September react when ticketed by police for speeding, reckless driving or any other common traffic offense. The revised bill, among other things, seeks to add “exhibition driving” to the existing legislation. The broad term includes many of the offenses seen in Ocean City during motorized event weekends, including skidding, swerving, engine revving and donuts on the highway. The consequence for an exhibition drive would be a fine of $1,000 and potential imprisonment of 60 days.
Over the last several weeks, Ocean City and regional officials have stated their case well for these enhanced penalties. Along with statements describing what they have seen in recent years, representatives presented a video of the havoc seen on local roads. These disturbing images coupled with strong voices of solidarity from elected officials, the business community and law enforcement present a convincing case.
The legislature would be wise to add the toughness sought to the special event zone bill. Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said, “It’s a recipe for disaster. There’s no doubt about it. We’re struggling to even have an acceptable degree of control.”
There is no hyperbole there. The legislature should pass this local courtesy bill. It’s about public safety.