MML Tourism Zones and Speed Camera Legislation Pass Senate and House Ahead of Critical Deadline

(March 19, 2024) Annapolis, Md. Ahead of the crossover deadline, two Maryland Municipal League (MML) priority bills passed out of their original chambers. Approved by the House on Saturday, HB 282 would enable more municipalities to utilize speed cameras by allowing those without a police department to utilize trained technicians to review the images and sign citations. HB 1281, cross-filed with SB 14, which would grant local governments the authority to create tourism zones and provide local incentives, advanced through the House on Monday, March 18. 

Introduced by Delegate Kenneth Kerr, HB 282 would standardize parts of the speed camera citation review process with the red-light camera citation process. The overall goal of the bill is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of speed cameras, which have been proven to change driver behavior and increase public safety. As Town of Denton Police Chief George Bacorn testified during the bill’s hearing, there is no special training that makes a police officer more capable or better suited than a trained technician to review these civil violations. The bill was amended by the House Environment and Transportation Committee to only apply to municipalities without a police agency. 

The original speed camera law effectively barred this public safety tool from the roughly 70 municipalities that do not have sworn officers to review the footage,” said John Carroll, MML President and Mayor of Galena. Given most cameras are located around school sites, this created pockets of inconsistency in how we protect our most vulnerable populations.” 

Both SB 14 (Sen. Michael A. Jackson) and HB 1281 (Del. Wayne A. Hartman), which would allow local governments to create tourism zones, have now passed their respective chambers in identical posture, including an amendment to extend the authority to counties. In addition to allowing local jurisdictions to self-designate the boundaries of a tourism zone, the bill also provides the authority to establish definitions for tourism businesses, provide certain local incentives, and set qualifications for those incentives. Incentives include, but are not limited to, real property tax credits, personal property tax credits, and exemption from local Admission and Amusement tax.  

The League views the creation of tourism zones as an economic development tool to bolster the already strong impact Maryland’s cities and towns have on tourism in the state. MML released a study in December which recognized seven of the ten “Best Places to Visit in Maryland,” as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, are either within or border a municipality. Of Visit Maryland’s Top 20 attractions in Maryland, twelve are located within or border a municipality. The bill sponsors were joined by Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kevin Anderson at the Senate and House hearings, sharing support from the Moore Administration.  

“Our focus over the last 20 days will be to ensure both pieces of legislation make it across the finish line, said MML CEO Theresa Kuhns. We will also be advocating for both chambers to keep future funding for local transportation projects intact, a priority for the League for well over a decade.” 

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