Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The rules for forcing a new law to a public vote in Maryland are extremely strict. A total of over 57,000 valid signatures must be collected, and signatures can be disqualified for many reasons, with 1/3 of those signatures submitted before may 30 and the rest by June 30. You must be registered to vote in Maryland in order to sign the petition. (If you are a Maryland resident but are not registered to vote, go REGISTER TO VOTE right now. If you don't vote you have no right to complain). Your name must appear on the petition exactly as it appears on your voter registration (there is a tool you can use to check your voter registration).
If you only want to sign the petition, you can go to www.mdscamera.com to print, sign, and mail the petition. Be sure to read the complete instructions for petition signers on that website before sending in your form. It is necessary to have someone "witness" the signature by signing as the "circulator" of the form (the circulator can be any person over the age of 18).
However what is really needed is for you to gather signatures. If you know others who might be willing to sign, please read the "instructions for those collecting signatures" and then ask them to sign as well. Better yet, go out and circulate the petition wherever you can.
MRE needs to receive the first batch of signatures by 5/25/2009. Please spread the word about this effort as widely and as quickly as possible. Senate Bill 277 significantly reduces YOUR rights as a maryland driver to face your accuser, gives an unreasonable amount of new power to local government, and will create the legal precedent and the physical infrastructure for even more sweeping mass surveillance and machine enforcement of drivers in the future. This affects everyone who lives in or visits the state of Maryland. The People deserve a real public debate and a direct vote on this issue and your signature and petition gathering efforts can make that possible.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Maryland rules on forcing a new law to a referendum are extremely strict, requiring a petition with signatures equal to 3% of the total number of votes cast for governor in the last election, or 53,650. Those signatures must all be collected within 60 days of the bills passage and must be hand-written (not electronic). However if the drive is successful the chances of a statewide vote overturning the legislature is strong : despite claims by speed camera supporters that the devices are popular, no speed camera program has ever survived a referendum vote.
We will have more on this as it develops.
Friday, April 10, 2009
You can see the complete list of names on our LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD.
Some of the sponsors of this and other speed camera expansion bills submitted this year include:
Senate President Mike Miller (D. Calvert and Prince George's County 27)
Sen Katherine A. Klausmeier (D, Baltimore County, District 8)
Sen James N. Robey (D, Howard County, District 13)
Sen Jennie Forehand (D, Montgomery, District 17)
Sen Douglas J.J. Peters (D, Prince George’s County, District 23)
Sen C. Anthony Muse (D, Prince George’s County, District 26)
Sen Nathaniel J. McFadden (D, Baltimore City, District 45)
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D, Anne Arundel, District 30) Del William A. Bronrott (D, Montgomery, District 16)
Del Roger Manno (D, Montgomery, District 19)
Del Tom Hucker (D-noticing a pattern yet?, Montgomery, District 20)
Del Barbara Robinson (D, Baltimore City, District 40)
Del Samuel I. Rosenberg (D, Baltimore City, District 41)
Del Curt Anderson (D, Baltimore City, District 43)
Del Maggie McIntosh (D, Baltimore City, District 43)
Del Ruth M. Kirk (D, Baltimore City, District 44)
Del Cheryl Glenn (D, Baltimore City, District 45)
And of course: GOVERNOR O'MALLEY
This legislation, about to become law, will allow speed cameras to used not just in school zones but also on FREEWAYS with speed limits of "45 MPH OR GREATER" across the entire state of Maryland in "work zones" "REGARLESS OF WHETHER WORKERS ARE PRESENT," according to the text of the bill.
Some of the amendments which were proposed to this legislation, but which were rejected by the House majority include:
- two amendments which would have made the cameras revenue neutral by returning net revenue to the people as tax credits (amendment 1, amendment 2)
- an amendment which would have required contracts to explicitly state that the contractor may not receive a per-citation payment (amendment)
- requiring that weekly calibration checks be performed, that the person who performed the calibration appear at court hearings, and find defendants not guilty if calibrations were not performed (amendment)
- require that state and federal lawmakers NOT be exempt from receiving speed camera citations (amendment)
- require legislators who voted for this bill to have their names printed on each citation (amendment) (don't worry, we will post those names here within a few days)
A section of text which would have limited the placement of cameras within 250 yards of a significant drop in the speed limit was scratched just before the bill cleared the senate -- making it possible to create a situation like that in Darnestown which could entrap drivers who do not respond immediately to the change.
Lawmakers who support speed cameras are fond of saying that you have nothing to fear from speed cameras if you "just obey the law". No doubt they are OK with making a statement like that with an inherent presumption of guilt, despite the fact that there have been many documented cases of innocent people receiving photo citations. EVERYONE should be afraid when our lawmakers attempt to diminish our legal rights. Do not be fooled, these lawmakers will be coming back for more and more power every year unless The People stop them.
Senate Bill 277 is nothing short of a declaration of war on drivers' rights. This bill allows for calibration and maintenance logs to be submitted without corroborating witnesses. The text of the bill which reads this states that "A certificate alleging that the violation of this subtitle occurred and the requirements under subsection (b) of this section have been satisfied, sworn to, or affirmed by an agent or employee of an agency, based on inspection of recorded images produced by a speed monitoring system, shall be evidence of the facts contained in the certificate and shall be admissible in a proceeding alleging a violation under this section without the presence or testimony of the speed monitoring system operator who performed the requirements under subsection (b) of this section." This wording is actually even WORSE than the CURRENT law as implemented in Montgomery County which at requires that a "a duly authorized agent of the local police department" sign off on the violation rather than any arbitrary "AGENT OR EMPLOYEE OF AN AGENCY". Translation: citations need not be certified by a sworn law enforcement officer. The bill also redefines who the speed monitoring system operator is to be "A REPRESENTATIVE" rather than a physical operator. That means a local jurisdictions need not worry about presenting the physical operator should it be the case that doing so might risk revealing flaws in their procedures in court.
This bill explicitly lowers the burden of proof for the state to "preponderance of evidence" rather than "beyond reasonable doubt" -- something which is NOT done in any of the other transportation articles related to speeding or most other traffic violations. The state certainly does not lower the standard of justice for serial killers, rapists or career criminals. There is no safety-based justification for doing it in this case either, the only reason for it is to allow the state it issue millions of citations per year without having to face large numbers of the defendants in court. The law does not provide any penalty to a local jurisdiction which chooses to not comply with restrictions in the law -- allowing them to be broken at the whim if need be to meet revenue goals. Nor are defendants permitted to raise such issues in their defense in Montgomery County speed camera cases. Judges have already gone so far as to tell defendants in court that "the only allowable "not guilty" plea against a speed camera citation is that another person was driving and to present that driver".
Visitors would be well advised to avoid driving through or spending any money in Maryland if they can help it. Maryland drivers should do whatever they feel is necessary to protect themselves from this attack on their rights. Our website has turned down offers to advertise "technological solutions" to speed cameras on this site, but if our readers feel they need that kind of help to avoid accidentally "feeding the monster" they should do what they must.
There are still ways to fight this thing in the courts, in the streets, and at the ballot box. Of course, it is the civic duty of anyone who receives such a citation to challenge it if they believe that the principals underlying our justice system are important, regardless of the efforts the state has gone to in order to make this appear futile. Contact Us if you want to help fight this monstrosity in other ways. Our lawmakers want you to believe that this is a "done deal" and that we, the sheeple of Maryland, can do nothing but accept the obliteration of our legal rights. They are wrong -- they have won this battle but the war has only just begun.
Friday, April 3, 2009
CameraFRAUD's protest in Chevy Chase Village in February was a great beginning, encouraging many frustrated drivers to "Honk Against SCAMERAS".
Contact StopBigBrotherMD@gmail.com for more details.
For anyone who would like to protest, but cannot attend this demonstration, you can still show your support. When you drive by any speed camera in Montgomery County or DC, slow your car to 5mph and start honking your horn. We will call this a "Camera Jam".
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Two senators who changed their votes who had voted against statewide cameras last year were
Senator Nancy J. King
(Democrat, District 39, Montgomery County : firstname.lastname@example.org , 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3686 )
Senator Robert A. Zirkin ( Democrat, District 11, Baltimore County : email@example.com , 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3131)
Senator Ulysses Currie (Democrat, District 25, Prince George's County)
and Senate President Thomas Mike Miller (Democrat, District 27, Calvert & Prince George's Counties)
also changed their votes, but as sponsors of the legislation were apparently originally holding our for something even more sweeping that the version of the bill which passed.
The House of Delegates passed legislation to authorize speed cameras in Baltimore, Prince George's County, and Howard County. HB396, HB1023, HB1314 have all now moved to the senate. You can see the names of delegates who voted for each bill here:
We will update our legislative scorecard shortly so you can more easily identify how YOUR delegates voted.
According to an article in the Washington Post, one senator (who did vote against SB277) had a special reason for not liking the cameras:
"Sen. George W. Della Jr. (D-Baltimore) told fellow senators that he was recently ticketed by a camera in the District, where the devices are allowed. When he examined the citation, he realized that the license plate pictured in the photo belonged to a car he owned years ago.
"It was a blatant error," he said.
But Della said that when he called to complain, he was told that the only way to avoid paying the ticket would be to explain the problem at a court hearing."
There are some limits to the use of the cameras in these bill. SB277 restricts them to "highway work zones" and streets within 1/2 mile of a school (which will include most residential streets). Last year an amendment to a similar bill which would have required highway work zones to have at least one worker present was rejected, so there is no such requirement on the highway work zone cameras. This year SB277 specifically states "regardless of whether workers are present". SB277 states that the "work zone speed control systems" will be authorized to ticket vehicles traveling on a highway "that is an expressway or a controlled access highway as defined in 21-101 of this title" and "on which the speed limit, established using accepted traffic engineering practices, is 45 miles per hour OR GREATER". Yes people, 55mph is greater than 45, meaning that 55mph freeways in Maryland will have speed cameras!
The ORIGINAL version of SB277 contained the following restriction, which was REMOVED by an amendment before it was passed."If a speed monitoring system is placed within 250 feet after the location of a sign decreasing the maximum speed limit on a highway, the speed monitoring system shall be calibrated only to record images of motor vehicles traveling at speeds at least 12 miles per hour above the posted speed limit in effect before the location of the sign" The removal of that restriction will allow localities to reserve the right to create situations like this one. Another amendment which was proposed to SB277 this year, but which the senate rejected, would have required that "A work zone speed control system shall be capable of being moved from one location to another". OK, so this part of the legislation is for work zones only, but the work zones are on FREEWAYS, do NOT need to have workers, and are allowed to have PERMANENT cameras?!?
The county level bills would all allow the cameras on "highways in a residential district", which in Montgomery County has been interpreted to include 6-lane state highways like Connecticut and New Hampshire Avenues.
Now is not the time for complacency or for surrender. Once the cameras get established across the state, it will be almost impossible to uproot them, as local jurisdictions become addicted to the ill gotten revenue. They will bend and break the rules to maximize that revenue, install more and more cameras ever year -- just as Montgomery County is doing right now. And every year they will return to the legislature trying to get restrictions on their use removed. In 2008, the legislation authorizing statewide cameras passed in both houses but was halted on the final day of the session. This legislation CAN STILL BE STOPPED! Keep the pressure up -- write or call your legislators RIGHT NOW!!!
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