Two committees in the Maryland General Assembly will consider legislation today related to cycling. The House Environmental Matters Commiittee will consider HB 1397, which will allow drivers to cross the double yellow line to pass a bicycle. (But the driver has to leave a passing clearance not greater than 3 feet, unlike most other types of passing where the requirement is at least 3 feet but a driver may leave 6 or more feet if she feels that doing so is safer.) For reasons discussed on this blog and on the Bike Washington list serve, alot of cyclists in this area think the bill is a bad idea. Still, Bike Maryland and a long list of cycling organizations support this bill. (WABA took no position.)
Meanwhile, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will consider SB 942, which would repeal the vehicular homicide bill passed last year (HB 363). WABA and a large coalition of cycling organizations oppose this bill, which is being pushed by the States Attorneys. I am overdue in my post explaining the differing perspectives, but basically the States Attorneys think that the original version of HB 363 that passed the House was great, but that the final bill was watered down to the point of being useless, i.e., that there is almost no set of facts that would result in conviction of the new offense that would not have been manslaughter anyway. Since the new offense has a three-year sentence while manslaughter has a ten-year sentence, they think that the main impact of HB 363 is that alot of defendants will get the lighter sentence. I agree that the bill was watered down, but WABA's testimony showed that there are still alot of offenses that could be prosecuted. I am hoping that eventually, the original coalition will push for the original bill which would be stronger.
Ironically, while the Senate Committee considers repeal of HB 363, trial is scheduled to start today in the Natasha Pettigrew hit-and-run case. Her mother, Keniss Henry, played a major role in motivating citizens from Prince Georges and Montgomery County to persuade the two key committee chairmen to move HB 363 forward last year.
(Jim Titus is on WABA's Board of Directors and represents Prince Georges County of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC). He tends to wait 4-8 hours after a post is uploaded before replying to comments. The opinions expressed here are Jim's alone and do not represent the views of either WABA or MBPAC.)