A Senate panel passed a bill Friday that would strip the driver's licenses from underage drinkers who use fake IDs to buy alcoholic beverages.
"We go after the bar, we go after the bartender or the barmaid, but we never go after the person who knows they are breaking law," said Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale.
"This hits them where it hurts them most -- in their driver's license," he said.
The bill, sponsored by Wagner and Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, passed the Judicial Proceedings Committee unanimously. If the full Senate approves, the bill will go to the House Judiciary Committee, which defeated similar legislation last year.
Jimeno said he's hopeful the bill become law this year with the support of the restaurant, tavern and liquor store owners as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Maryland State's Attorney's Association.
Last year, Wagner and Jimeno sponsored legislation that would have made it illegal to possess false identification.
But, the House Judiciary Committee "questioned whether that would have appliedto kids who lied about their age to play Little League," Jimeno said.
"This year, we're going around that by going after their driver's licenses," he said.
Tavern and restaurant owners, who have complained for years that teen-agers aren't prosecuted when they lie abouttheir age to bartenders and cashiers, proposed the new language.
Under the bill, anyone younger than 21 would lose their license up tosix months for the first offense and up to two years for the second.
"We've confiscated handfuls of these IDs and they just keep coming back," said Greg Phillips, manager of Frank's Den, a package store in Glen Burnie.
"It's a sad state of affairs because the store owner's livelihood is on the line. And right now, (underage drinkers) aren't jeopardizing anything."
Phillips said he has confiscated morethan 100 false identification cards, either faked or altered, from underage customers. "We've seen college IDs, fake IDs -- maybe their brother's driver's license has expired. They'll try anything," he said.
"The one who actively abuses and uses the fake IDs have been able to walk away," Jimeno said. "This closes the loophole. If you are going to be serious about cracking down on underage drinking, then this is the last step."
In other legislative action:
* The Judicial Proceedings Committee approved a bill, 9-1, Friday that would treat16- and 17-year-old drug dealers as adults in court.
"A 16- or 17-year-old who is out on the street hustling drugs has emancipated himself from the juvenile population," said Katcef, representing the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association. "That's anadult activity that deserves to be handled in adult court.
Frequently, adults recruit juveniles to sell drugs because the penalties are more lenient for minors, said Jimeno, who sponsored the bill. "They've made a mockery of the juvenile justice system," he said. "This elevates the seriousnessof their offense."
Under the bill, juveniles would automatically be charged as adults for the manufacture or distribution of controlled dangerous substances. A similar law exists for minors charged with murder and handgun violations.
If the court then agreed, the case could be sent back to the juvenile justice system.
The state Department of Juvenile Services opposed the bill, arguing that the state'sattorney's office should seek to try minors as adults on a case-by-case basis. The bill must still pass the full Senate and House.
* The 13-member House delegation has agreed, 8-3, to remove Anne ArundelCounty from a proposed ethics law barring County Council members from voting on zoning requests by campaign contributors.
The District33 delegates -- John Gary, R-Millersville, Marsha Perry, D-Crofton and Elizabeth Smith, R-Davidsonville -- argued against amending the county out of the ethics bill proposed by two Prince George's County lawmakers. County Executive Robert Neall requested the amendment.
* Secretary of Transportation O. James Lighthizer said Friday that his department has agreed to install air conditioners at four North County elementary and middle schools disrupted by jet noise at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Lighthizer said he negotiated theagreement with Delegates Joan Cadden, D-Brooklyn Park, and Victor Sulin, D-Severn, who introduced a bill requiring the state to pay for the air conditioners. The cost has been estimated at $10 million.
"I won't say they held us up exactly, but . . ." Lighthizer said.