Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Powerful Transportation Committee Chaired by State Delegate With Prior Drunk Driving Arrest

One of the most powerful legislative committees in the General Assembly, and the one which has overwhelming control over matters pertaining to transportation, motorist, and traffic safety issues, is currently chaired by a State Delegate who previously plead guilty to a drunk driving offense.

In November 2014, House Speaker Busch selected Delegate Kumar Barve (D, Montgomery County) to chair the Environment and Transportation Committee.

In July 2008, Delegate Barve plead guilty to a DUI charge and was given "probation before judgement".   This ruling permitted Barve to avoid a guilty verdict and all but $200 of the $1000 fine was suspended.

The arrest was not merely a "youthful indiscretion".  At the time of the DUI incident, Barve held the powerful position as House Majority leader.  Barve will now chair the Environment and Transportation Committee.  All legislation in the House of Delegates having to do with transportation, including all bills regarding traffic laws and enforcement thereof, will first need to pass through Barve's committee.

This chairmanship position is insufficient for Barve's ambitions, who recently announced his intention to run for Congress in Maryland's 8th district,

House Speaker Busch touted Barve's credentials for the chairmanship of the House's primary committee on transportation issues in his press release regarding the appointment, stating that "Delegate Barve has demonstrated time and time again his command of complex issues and he is a natural choice of someone to guide State environment and transportation policy."

But we can't help but wonder about that.  There is an obvious question of why someone with a prior DUI arrest is the ideal person to preside over a committee which helps decide the state's traffic safety laws.  Certainly most members of the House of Delegates have never been arrested for DUI, and certainly the writer of this piece has never driven while drunk even one time in his life.  It does not seem like it should have been hard to find another qualified delegate whose credentials included never having been caught driving drunk.

One might also wonder if a politician in that position might feel compelled to act against the interests of Motorists any time the word "safety" is brought up, with no consideration for how this impacts people's legal rights, or whether the safety claim is valid, or whether a particular piece of legislation actually addresses said safety issue in an appropriate manner.  Would a politician in that position be pressured to prove their "safety credentials" even when that might mean hypocritically holding other motorists accountable for that lawmaker's prior actions?