The best (unlikely to pass) bill in Annapolis
Last summer, after the tragic death of 20-year-old Johns Hopkins student Miriam Frankl in a hit-and-run crash in which a man with nine previous drunken-driving convictions was charged, I made a modest suggestion in a Getting There column: that Maryland, at some point, say enough is enough and permanently take away a chronic drunk driver's right to own and operate a motor vehicle.
Little did I expect a member of the General Assembly to actually act on the idea, but Del. William J. Frank did just that.
The Baltimore County Republican introduced H.B. 1367, which would instruct the Motor Vehicle Administration to refuse to grant a drivers' license to or register a vehicle in the name of any person who has been convicted of drunk driving at least three times.
Obviously, this is a brilliant idea and Delegate Frank is a most enlightened statesman. His bill comes up for a hearing Wednesday afternoon in the House Judiciary Committee, a notorious graveyard of tough drunk driving legislation.
All the signs are that chances of passage are slim. The bill has no co-sponsors, and Frank is a junior member of the minority party. And Maryland legislators are extremely solicitous of what they perceive as a person's right to drive no matter what -- as if it were enshrined in some hidden clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Still, Frank is doing the state a service by putting on the table the proposition that the safety of others can at some point trump this supposed right. Many of the best laws passed in Maryland have started out as a bill unceremoniously killed in committee. Sometimes it takes years.
Here's one confident prediction: No legislator who supports this idea will pay a price politically. Can those who might help kill it feel as comfortable?