This post has been updated.
The Montgomery County Council is scheduled to vote on youth curfew legislation Dec. 6 and may take up a loitering bill that some county officials see as a counterproposal the following week, officials said Friday.
Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), who chairs the public safety committee, said the panel will vote on both bills on Dec. 1 and send them to the council. He also said there will be a public hearing on the loitering bill Nov. 15 and a committee meeting to discuss that bill two days later.
Some officials have been waiting for a vote on the curfew for months. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has pushed for the curfew since July and has accused Andrews of delaying the process, wrote a letter to the County Council this week urging legislators to vote on the curfew before the December recess.
”It’s time to recognize the introduction of the loitering bill for what it really is — a stall tactic intended to confuse the debate on the curfew bill and delay action on the curfew bill,” Leggett wrote.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel” with the curfew bill, he added in an interview Friday. “It’s been drawn out in a way that is not as productive as it should be.”
The curfew, which Leggett proposed in July, would cover people younger than 18 and would start at 11 p.m. during the week and just after midnight Friday and Saturday.
The Leggett administration opposes the loitering bill, which targets people who behave suspiciously outside or on county property, and Leggett has asked County Attorney Marc Hansen to weigh in on its constitutionality. Similar bills have been upheld by courts in at least three states but have been struck down in other states.
At a council meeting on the curfew earlier this month, legislators wanted to hammer out some of the details on that proposal. But the meeting turned into a back-and-forth discussion about the purpose and intent of that bill and of the loitering bill.
Council members and Leggett officials butted heads over the intent and effectiveness of the curfew. Supporters say the bill could protect youth and serve as a deterrent to youth crime. Critics say the bill is too vague to be enforceable or effective.
Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger supports the curfew but is critical of the loitering bill. In his first public remarks to legislators on the latter, Manger suggested that, among other things, it could compel police to target the mentally ill.
For instance, the law describes suspicious behavior as “a manner not usual for law-abiding persons.” Manger said mentally ill people could fit that definition.
After the meeting, Manger declined to comment further on the loitering bill, saying that he will making a fuller statement on the bill at the Nov. 15 public hearing. (On the curfew, Manger added, with apparent exasperation, “I think we’ve talked about it enough.”)
Andrews said he would be interested to hear any specific amendments that Manger might suggest for the loitering bill. The current proposal “is a very good logical starting point,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon.”
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)