Ocean City Today

Special event zone bill clears

Two measures will now be merged into one law to combat rowdiness
By Greg Ellison | Apr 05, 2018
Source: File Photo

(April 6, 2018) With another season of automobile and motorcycle events kicking off next month, Ocean City officials are optimistic the General Assembly will pass emergency legislation creating special event zones to help law enforcement address reckless behaviors and improve public safety in time for this years annual gatherings.

Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) and Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) are sponsoring companion bills that would permit the State Highway Administration, and local authorities, to designate roads in Worcester County under its purview as special event zones that have reduced speed limits and increased penalties for motor vehicle violations.

Upon passage, the emergency bill would be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan to sign into law before this years’ car and bike event season begins. The General Assembly ends the 2018 legislative session Monday.

Since passing the Senate on third reading by a 46-0 vote in mid-March, the House of Delegates approved its version 136-1   Thursday. The two will be reconciled by both houses.

Speaking from the Senate floor on Tuesday, Mathias said the bill was on track for House passage prior to the legislative session ending on Monday, and Carozza announced the vote Thursday morning.

The bills original text was amended by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to, among other things, localize the bill to Worcester County.

Increased penalties were cut back to a maximum $1,000 fine. The initial bill language included fines of up to $5,000 and potential jail time if a pedestrian was injured.

The definition of “special event” was limited to motor vehicle events occurring in close proximity to a highway, removing earlier language that included an array of gatherings attracting large crowds near roadways. Events authorized by local jurisdictions or those with anticipated attendance of at least 1,000 spectators would qualify.

City Manager Doug Miller said the legislative push took root in December after the 27-member Motor Events Task Force began discussing solutions following spats of extreme rowdiness during motorized events last fall.

“We think the passage of this state bill is crucial to our efforts to curb nuisance behaviors during motor events,” he said.

Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said he was optimistic the legislation would be passed in time for the first motor event of the season.

“We are grateful that the Special Event Zone bill is being met with such positive results and I want to thank Senator Mathias and Delegate Carozza for their hard work,” he said.

From his perspective, Buzzuro envisions special event zones providing law enforcement enhanced capabilities to ensure public safety.

“Not only will it promote safe driving, but it will also increase the penalties associated with the traffic citations that officers write to those that choose to ignore the rules of the road,” he said.

In response to heightened concerns following car events last fall, Miller said the city searched for approaches to reign in rowdiness.

“We fear some of the behavior is going to ultimately end up in a serious accident with the potential for death,” he said. “Public safety is the top priority.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.