Speed cameras everywhere in Maryland?

Speed cameras could be coming to many parts of Maryland under a plan that surfaced in the state Senate this morning.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has been seeking approval of statewide speed cameras, expanding their presence beyond just Montgomery County, where they are now.

The proposal appeared all but dead in the Senate, where a committee approved a watered-down version allowing the cameras just in highway work zones. But in an unexpected move, the proposal gained new life thanks to a change proposed by Sen. James Robey, a former Howard County police chief and Democratic county executive, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.

Robey offered an amendment to authorize cameras within a half-mile radius of all schools, which would potentially put them in huge swaths of the state’s urban and suburban areas. Robey's amendment was approved by a wide majority, and the plan received preliminary approval on second reading. (Final Senate approval to come later this week.)

The House of Delegates appears willing to follow suit. House leaders said they have been waiting for the Senate to act, since that’s where a speed camera bill died during the final hours of last year’s session.

The final plan will emerge over the next several days, but its chances look good.

Speed cameras automatically capture a license plate number of a car going above the speed limit. The car’s owner receives a citation for a set amount, regardless of the speed. The penalties are not a moving violation, and no points are accumulated on licenses. Critics call the cameras an unwarranted government intrusion and little more than a means to generate money. Proponents tout the safety features. Senators have place income limits on the cameras to address concerns that local governments will use them as a major revenue source.

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