ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed three high-profile bills Tuesday.
One requires testing for radon in single-family houses, making the County the first in the nation to require such a test.
Another bill allows police officers to fine people who pay for prostitution.
The third bill increases the fine for businesses that sell tobacco to minors.
Council members Craig Rice (D-2) and Sidney Katz (D-3) sponsored the radon testing bill.
Before the council voted on the bill, members discussed whether new homes should be exempt but decided against that option.
Newly built homes are now equipped with a radon mitigation system that includes a pipe running from the bottom of the home to outside of the home.
The system will require a homeowner to install a fan to push out radon, said Rice.
Radon then travels through the pipe and into the air. There are no environmental impacts because radon dissipates in the atmosphere, said Rice.
He said he wants to create a Radon Awareness Month beginning in January to educate the County about the harmful chemical and added he wants radon test kits to be provided to families who can’t afford the test.
This legislation takes effect in October 2016.
Rice and fellow Council member Tom Hucker (D-5) sponsored the bill making payment for sex a violation of County law.
It allows police to issue civil citations resulting in a maximum first time ticket of $500.
The fine increases $750 for subsequent offenses and the County Attorney’s Office can prosecute those charged with the crime.
People who are ticketed can pay the fine in lieu of attending court.
However, the bill also allows for criminal citations, which can result in a $1,000 ticket and up to six months in jail.
“This will allow us to influence the demand side of prostitution and appropriately charge those that seek to solicit prostitution, thereby diminish(ing) its’ effect on our community,” said Russ Hamill, assistant chief with the Montgomery County Police Department.
Rice’s bill to increase penalties for businesses that sell tobacco to minors passed unanimously.
The maximum civil fine for the first offense is $1,000 and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
Currently, the County’s maximum fine is $500 and increases to $750 for subsequent offenses.
Under Maryland’s criminal law, the fine for a first offense is $300, $1,000 for a second offense and $3,000 for every following offense within two years of the previous offense.
This County legislation is effective once Leggett signs it.
A Jan. 12 public hearing is scheduled for a resolution that would apply the legislation to municipalities within the County.