Page 2 of 2   <      

Group's Web Site, Facebook Help Fuel Petition Drive by Speed Camera Opponents

After signing the bill, O'Malley told reporters that "most people that I talk to believe that we all should be encouraged to slow down on our highways." But the governor said he was "agnostic" as to whether voters should get a say on the issue, adding, "I don't really care one way or another."

Among those bringing more zeal to the fight is Bruce Bereano, one of the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis who for years has been a vocal opponent of red-light cameras and speed cameras.

Bereano, who admittedly shuns computers, is employing more old-fashioned methods in his alliance with Maryland for Responsible Enforcement.

He recently showed up in District Court in Montgomery on a day when a docket was reserved for those contesting speed-camera citations from the county, for example.

"It was what I call a target-rich environment," Bereano said, adding that he has found the anti-speed camera petition an "easy sell" because so many people have a viscerally negative reaction to the devices.

The state Republican Party, which has been struggling for visibility in Democratic-dominated Maryland, has also joined the populist effort.

The party's state central committee recently passed a resolution supporting Shuy's group. But most of the petition work has been directed by local GOP groups, said Justin Ready, executive director of the state party. This is the time of the year when county GOP chapters hold annual fundraising events.

"Every Republican event we have, we've been pushing that petition as hard as we can," Ready said.

Daniel Zubairi, a Bethesda businessman and former Republican congressional candidate, is the other driving force behind Maryland for Responsible Enforcement. But Shuy said the group has worked to build a broad coalition crossing party lines and demographic groups.

If the group meets its first target for signatures by May 31, it will have until the end of June to reach the overall goal of roughly 53,000. That number is based on a formula that requires signatures of 3 percent of the votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.

The last successful petition drive in Maryland was in 2006, when a group blessed by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) sought to derail a recently passed early voting law. The issue became moot when the law was declared unconstitutional.

In 2005, a conservative group failed to meet the first deadline for signatures on four bills expanding gay and lesbian rights. Two of those were vetoed by Ehrlich; the others became law.

Past petition efforts have been hampered in part by technical requirements. Signatures, for example, must exactly match a name as it appears on the voting rolls. Even a slight variation disqualifies it.

Bereano said he is cautiously optimistic about the prospects for holding off the speed camera law.

"It's just going to be an issue of manpower, getting the petitions around and doing it correctly," he said.

<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company