OCEAN CITY — Legislation strengthening the resort’s motorized special event zone prohibitions, including arrestable offenses, was passed by state lawmakers late Wednesday before the abbreviated General Assembly session ended.
Law enforcement will have a new hammer in the toolbox when the next motorized event requiring the implementation of a special event zone rolls around. State lawmakers late Wednesday approved legislation adding several violations under the larger umbrella of “exhibition driving” for which offenders could be arrested, fined heavily and have their vehicles impounded.
State Senator Mary Beth Carozza filed Senate Bill 878 and Delegate Wayne Hartman filed the sister legislation House Bill 1493 early in the session. Senate Bill 878 was passed by the full Senate over the weekend and crossed over to the House of Delegates where it passed Wednesday in a 132-0 vote.
Carozza said with the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers had plenty on their plate, but legislators pushed through to the end to get many pieces of legislation passed before the session was halted.
“During this national emergency, we’ve been pushing hard to ensure the ‘must do’ bills are finished before this early adjournment with the special events exhibition driving prohibitions bill as my top local emergency public safety bill,” she said. “I am grateful that we all worked together to push it over the line. It’s a real public safety win for our local residents, visitors, business operators and law enforcement.”
After yet another troublesome unsanctioned motorized special event last September, resort officials promised everything was on the table in terms of possible solutions to some of the reckless and wanton activity. A first step was taken in January when Ocean City announced it was moving its signature Sunfest event to the first weekend in October after nearly 50 years
According to the bill’s language, among the offenses under the umbrella of exhibition driving are operating a vehicle in a manner that produces abrupt acceleration of deceleration, skidding, swerving, raucous engine noise, gear grinding or wheels losing contact with the ground. For the first time in the evolution of the special event zone legislation, the potential penalties described in the bill include potential jail time. For example, violations could result in a term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days, or a fine of $1,000 or both.