Lawmakers propose fines for motorists who don’t clear vehicles of ice, snow

DOVER — Driving around with snow and ice on your car in the aftermath of a winter storm could soon be against the law.

Bipartisan legislation filed last week would require drivers to clear snow and ice off their vehicles before starting them. Failing to do so would lead to a fine of $25 to $75 if the bill passes.

Costs would be greater should snow or ice on a car cause injuries or property damages. In that event, private drivers would face a fine of up to $1,000, while truckers could be penalized to the tune of $1,500.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania use an identical fine system.

“The seconds you save by not clearing your vehicle can end up costing the people around you,” Sen. Laura Sturgeon, a Sharpley Democrat who is the main sponsor, said in a statement. “Brushing off your vehicle can prevent serious crashes, injury and property damage. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Police in Delaware currently lack the authority to stop individuals who fail to clear off their vehicles before driving.

The measure would not assign points to a person’s license.

Nearly identical legislation passed the Senate with no opposition in 2016 and 2017 but never received a vote in the House. Oddly enough, those bills were sponsored by Republican Greg Lavelle, whom Sen. Sturgeon defeated in November.

Marijuana

Legislation that would legalize marijuana is coming down the pipeline soon, and while supporters are confident they have the votes after falling short last year, Gov. John Carney remains in opposition.

The governor, a Democrat, said he still has questions and concerns about detecting impaired drivers and the impact of marijuana on public health.

In conversations with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, both of whom were in office in 2012 when their states became the first jurisdictions in the United States with legal cannabis, the two raised concerns “serious enough for us to say, let’s go slowly about it and let’s not rush into it,” Gov. Carney said Thursday.

He also noted he is backing a push by lawmakers to raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21, describing it as “ironic” to support that while at the same time campaigning for recreational marijuana use.

Though the exact specifics of the forthcoming bill are not known, it is expected to differ from last year’s failed measure.

Some have speculated that should the proposal pass, the governor might not veto it but instead take advantage of a little-used provision in the state constitution that would allow the bill to become law without his signature.

The Medical Society of Delaware released a joint statement with the Connecticut, New Jersey and New York societies Thursday outlining its opposition.

“We have serious concerns about the lack of scientific evidence that supports recreational marijuana use by adults and young adults,” they said.

“Most importantly, not enough research has been done to prove marijuana is safe. We must look at the potential effect legalization will have on overall use and significant harms, including impaired driving and accidents, creation and worsening of severe mental health issues, and negative impacts on developing minds.”

Hazing

One of the General Assembly’s most amusing (although some might say annoying) traditions is the hazing a new member undergoes when his or her first bill is being voted on. Legislators take turns asking silly questions in an attempt to embarrass their colleague, as Rep. Ray Seigfried found out in January.

During a discussion on his first bill, the Arden Democrat was asked to provide examples of adult establishments for a proposal removing a requirement that applications for certain professional licenses, including one for an adult entertainment establishment or adult-oriented retail establishment, be notarized.

Thursday, Sen. Dave Wilson, a Bridgeville Republican, was the subject of jokes. While Sen. Wilson previously served in the House, each chamber likes to have its fun, and so several senators took turns imitating an auctioneer, calling out numbers in rapid fashion.

As Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long helpfully noted to clear up confusion some onlookers may have had, Sen. Wilson runs an auction house (and is quite good at speaking very quickly).

Over in the House, Rep. Bill Bush escaped the first-timer treatment Tuesday — temporarily. The Cheswold Democrat’s first bill is a complex proposal dealing with trusts that could be relevant in court proceedings.

Because of that, lawyers and judges may want to go back and listen to the audio from the legislative discussion in the future should questions about it arise, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said. Those listeners might have serious legal concerns in need of answers and might not understand the context behind the hazing, meaning it would be somewhat poor form to toss inane or embarrassing questions at Rep. Bush, he told representatives.

The decision only prolongs the inevitable, however, and Rep. Bush can expect to undergo the rite of passage in the future.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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