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District 21 reps discuss recently passed legislation

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Posted on: July 8, 2024

By LILLIAN GLAROS

A number of state laws, including one that cracks down on exhibition driving, took effect on July 1.
PHOTO CREDIT Sam Gauntt

A new law prohibiting street racing hit a nerve with College Park residents who attended a meeting with state Sen. Jim Rosapepe and the District 21 delegates on June 19.

The law creates stricter penalties for street racing and exhibition driving contests, which feature driving that includes behaviors like grinding a car’s gears and doing donuts. Those penalties could be up to a $1,000 fine, eight to 12 points and up to 60 days in jail if no one is injured. If someone is injured, jail time could be a year.

“I’ve just heard the second tonight … racing up and down Kenilworth,” said Cindy Woodlock, who attended the virtual meeting. “It will continue until 2 or 3 in the morning every night that it doesn’t rain.”

Rosapepe joined District 21 Delegates Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Mary Lehman for the meeting, which was hosted by the district’s delegation and College Park’s nine civic associations. The hour-long discussion focused on a handful of the more than 1,000 pieces of legislation the General Assembly passed during its last session, which ended in April. 

The laws took effect on July 1.

Lehman said the exhibition driving law will be a challenge to enforce.

“Enforcement is going to be a huge challenge, and that’s going to be the key,” said Lehman, who co-sponsored the bill. 

Lehman also co-sponsored another law, which creates a two-year pilot program allowing cities in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to install noise-monitoring systems with cameras, which she compared to speed cameras.

College Park officials have indicated they would like to install one of the noise-abatement devices in the city.

A separate law will create a graduated series of speeding fines in work zones, depending on how much over the speed limit a vehicle is going. The law would allow up to six speed cameras in a speed zone.

The legislators also discussed laws on healthcare, the environment and affordable housing, among others.

Rosapepe reviewed some College Park and Prince George’s County-specific accomplishments of the legislative session, such as approving funds for Prince George’s County schools and road repairs.

He also noted that the Legislature approved $10 million for flood control.

“Folks in Calvert Hills know about flooding,” Rosapepe said. “We’ve been working to bring money back to the county to deal with flood control.”

Lawmakers approved nearly $1 million to help build an extension to College Park Academy to make room for more sports, performing arts and music programs., They also allocated $5 million in annual funding to improve graduate student housing.

“We’ve been working on for several years to provide affordable graduate student housing in College Park,” Rosapepe said. “That’s important to the graduate students but it’s also important for preserving neighborhoods.” 

Rosapepe also pointed to two gun-control bills, including one that did not pass the house but would have taxed guns, ammunition and accessories to support victims of gun violence. A second, which did pass, will hold manufacturers liable when their guns or gun accessories are used to harm or kill people. 

Peña-Melnyk talked about the state’s goal to increase the number of Marylanders who  have health insurance.

This year the assembly passed the Access to Care Act, which Peña-Melnyk said calls for a waiver from the federal government to open the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to undocumented immigrants so they can purchase its insurance.

“The bill says plainly, no subsidies allowed,” Peña-Melnyk said. “Just allow them to buy insurance with their hard earned money, full freight, no subsidies.”

Another Lehman-supported law, on the other hand, would offer incentives to developers whose buildings include affordable housing units.

Another housing-related law will require landlords to allow tenants to make a first offer if the single-family home or town home they rent goes up for sale. It also establishes an Office of Tenants Rights and raises the filing fee for landlords who evict their tenants to $50.

Lehman also discussed a couple of environmental laws, including one that requires paint companies to submit plans for recycling their paint and another that  gives Maryland citizens the right to sue polluters to protect waterways.

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