Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

1/11/07 @ 7:30 PM – Public Hearing on All Local General Assembly Bills

Posted by Ed C on Friday, December 22, 2006

This is a follow-up to the previous post (Save the Date)

From the Baltimore Sun:

A public hearing on all local General Assembly bills is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 in the County Council chambers in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

Proposed Legislation to be discussed includes:

  • Property tax legislation to allow buyers of moderate-income housing to pay property taxes only on the portion of the home they own.
  • Strengthen the county’s power to enforce zoning-violation laws
  • Three state bond bills requesting $1.5 million ($500,000 each) for Blandair Park, North Laurel Community Park and the proposed Robinson Nature Center on Cedar Lane.
  • Legislation to prohibit carrying a machete at night
  • Extend partial voting rights to a student school board member
  • Create a new class of liquor license for the sale of organic beer and wines.
  • Cut property taxes 30 percent to 50 percent for senior homeowners, depending on how long they have occupied their homes.
  • A $500,000 State bond for building a parking garage off main street in Ellicott City

The last two items are being sponsored by Rep. Gail Bates:

One delegation member, Del. Gail H. Bates, is again planning to submit her request for $500,000 in state bond funding to help plan a new parking garage off Main Street in Ellicott City — a project likely to be taken up by the new Howard County Revenue Authority.

Bates, a Republican, said she plans to introduce a bill that failed last year to give older homeowners a property tax cut, depending on how long they have lived in their homes. County Council is preparing to revisit the senior tax issue by appointing a task force to study the law, approved Oct. 30, giving homeowners ages 70 and older a 25 percent tax cut if their income is less than $75,000 a year.

The Senior Tax credit is the same legislation used to create the current Howard County Legislation that is now being reviewed by a Task Force. David has covered this in detail here.

I’ll give Calvin Ball credit for good intentions for proposing “anti-gang” legislation. I’m not sure how large of a gang problem Howard County has. Is there a current problem or is this is a case of being proactive? Either way, stopping gang activity certainly falls under the category of “a good thing to do.”

However, I have three specific problems with the proposed legislation as described:

  • Do we need additional legislation?
  • Do we need legislation specific to machetes?
  • Why is it limited to night?

First, do we need new legislation to accomplish this? I mean, of the X number of laws (with X being larger than say 10) that are currently on the books, is there nothing a police officer can do if they see an individual or group of individuals out and about carrying a machete (a night)? Has there ever been a time where an officer thought “Gee, I’d like to arrest that guy, if there only was a law that fit this situation?” Even if it is just Loitering or Trespassing, wouldn’t that give them enough cause to intervene, check for other violations and possibly confiscate the weapon until a hearing was held? How many gang members are going to go to court to get their machete back from a Judge?

Second, why limit the legislation to a specific weapon? There are plenty of things that I can think of off the top of my head that are dangerous and that I would not want to be attacked with. A machete is certainly up there near the top of the list, but so are knives, tire irons, bats, large sticks and even seat-belt extensions.

Does anyone else remember the 1979 movie The Warriors? One of the gangs, the Baseball Fury, wore baseball uniforms, painted their faces and carried baseball bats. Now, if local gangs started acting like this would we need more legislation? Would it be for wearing Yankees style uniforms at night?

Last, why just at night? As pointed out in the article, the 2005 machete attack occurred during the day. Would the proposed legislation have stopped this crime in any way?

Recently the Sun Reported on Gang-Net, a database that is being established to track gang activity (Law enforcement plans to track region’s gangs with Web database). This is a Washington-Baltimore regional program that includes Virginia. If we want to tackle gang activity, I’d start by asking the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force and other regional law enforcement authorities on what legislation is needed / has worked in other areas. Somehow I don’t think outlawing carrying a machete at night is going to be at the top of their list.

I am not advocating for the rights of gang members to carry machetes, and I am all for aggressive anti-gang enforcement. Maybe there is additional information to justify this legislation, but on the face of it it just seems too specific to accomplish much, if anything.


One Response to “1/11/07 @ 7:30 PM – Public Hearing on All Local General Assembly Bills”

  1. Good post Ed and good questions. I give C. Ball an A for effort too, but you raise some really good questions. What authority does a police officer have when he see someone with a long knife? Is that probable cause?

    As to gang activity in Howard County. I think the lid is being held closed on that. Maybe it is Howard County’s dirty little secret, or maybe it is creeping up from Montgomery. Anyway, I would not be surprised to learn for a fact that Howard County has a gang problem. Regardless, I think the police department should do what is necessary to combat real, perceived or potential gang activity.

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