Montgomery County legislators will sponsor a loitering bill that some county officials see as a counterproposal to controversial curfew legislation being considered by the county.
The loitering bill, which will be introduced to the County Council at a meeting Tuesday, targets people who “loiter or prowl” outside or on county property. Council members Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), George Leventhal (D-At Large) and Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), a supporter of the curfew, will co-sponsor the legislation.
The introduction of the bill comes as the curfew is losing support from county legislators. Leventhal, who has said he was undecided about the bill, says he prefers the loitering bill over the curfew.
Council members Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) and Nancy Navarro (D-Eastern County), both skeptical of the curfew, are also heavily considering the loitering bill, according to council staff.
The curfew was introduced in July as an “expedited” bill, which requires six votes to pass. Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said there are no plans to introduce an amendment to remove the bill’s expedited status, which would allow it to be passed with only five votes.
Lacefield said he still thinks the curfew will pass, and that the loitering bill is too broad to be effective. Andrews disagrees, saying the curfew has too many exemptions to be effective.
Rice said he still supports the curfew and would like to see both bills implemented.
Loitering bills often raise issues of constitutionality, but Andrews and Leventhal looked to Florida and Georgia — where loitering laws have been upheld — as models.
Nonetheless, the County Council in 2006 unanimously approved an amended version of a loitering bill they were considering at the time. The Council decided to take out any reference of “loitering” and congregating, fearing violations of the First Amednment.
In response, Andrews has said the loitering bill would target suspicious behavior of individuals, not assemblies of people.
Andrews, chair of the council’s public safety committee, said he expects the group to discuss both bills at a committee meeting scheduled for Nov. 17. That means that the council likely would not vote on either bill until at least late November.
Read up on Montgomery curfew coverage:
“Montgomery mulls curfew” (July 12)
“Montgomery County debates merits of teen curfew” (Aug. 31)
“Vote on Montgomery curfew won’t come soon” (Sept. 13)