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Schmoke is expected to sign curfew bill, after Clarke gripes


Hours after City Council President Mary Pat Clarke publicly criticized the mayor for allowing a tough new curfew bill to languish unsigned for nearly a month, administration officials announced yesterday that he is expected to sign the measure when he returns from vacation today.

The bill -- which received final council approval June 27 -- requires children under age 17 to be off the streets by 11 p.m. weeknights and by midnight Saturday and Sunday.

Police can take violators to their homes or to designated holding facilities. The measure also imposes penalties on the parents and guardians of violators -- a $50 fine for a first-time offense, and up to a $300 fine and 60 days in jail for a subsequent offense.

The provisions take effect as soon as Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke signs the bill. A Police Department spokesman said officers would begin enforcing the law immediately, but added that each of the city's nine district commanders would decide how much effort to devote to enforcement.

Informed of the administration's position, Mrs. Clarke said late yesterday afternoon, "They were going to do it all the time, right?

"Fine," she added. "Just so we have it."

Earlier yesterday, Mrs. Clarke opened the weekly Board of Estimates meeting by noting that a 16-year-old was fatally shot at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, and by criticizing the mayor's failure to sign the curfew bill.

After the meeting, she sharpened her criticism.

"It's languishing in the middle of summer," she said of the measure. "Sign the bill."

Four hours later, at a hastily called news conference, City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said his department had determined that the bill was legally valid and was recommending that Mr. Schmoke sign it.

"The mayor wants this legislation," mayoral spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said. A year and a half ago, he said, the mayor asked the law department to file a friend of the court brief with Maryland's highest court, which is reviewing the constitutionality of a curfew law in Frederick.

Mr. Janey noted that the 30-day limit for signing a bill does not expire until today, and denied that the administration was prodded to act by Mrs. Clarke's comments.

Mr. Janey said that before recommending approval, his department had to examine the constitutionality of the legislation and procedural issues surrounding its passage.

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