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Bill to ban smoking in car with children takes strange turn

A controversial bill that would ban smoking inside any car with a child under the age of 8 took an interesting turn in the state Senate Friday morning.

Sen. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel, proposed an amendment that would change the age from 8 to 16 in what appeared to be an attempt to kill the bill. Citing his opposition to red light and speed cameras, Astle said he was aware of the health risks of smoking, but was concerned the bill could be a slippery slope.

“If smoke is bad for kids under 8, it must be bad for kids over 8,” Astle said as he explained his amendment.

Supporters argued that the 8 year age limit was because children under that age are required to use a car seat, which is easier for police to spot.

The amendment seemed like a blatant attempt to kill the bill, but then something strange happened: Astle’s killer amendment passed 24-19.

Despite several senators seeming astonished that the amendment was adopted, the issue appeared resolved for the day after Sen. Ed Reilly, R- Anne Arundel, moved to postpone debate to Monday night. Reilly said his own amendment had to be redrafted due to the bill’s new language.

However, minutes before the Senate was set to recess, Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, motioned to reconsider Astle’s amendment. With no debate senators voted again, this time defeating the amendment 19-25. The bill’s language reverted back to children aged 8 and under. It was a rare parliamentary move, and one Ferguson could only make because he had voted for the amendment the first time. It left Senate President Mike Miller stunned.

“That is one of the few times I have no idea what just happened,” Miller said to laughter from the chamber in which he is usually master of every move.

Debate on the bill is set to resume Monday.

Originally published by

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