The Montgomery County Council just can’t tear itself away from the little blue pill as they voted to keep funding its use for county government workers though in a more limited fashion than in the past.

According to the Examiner the council over the objections of County Executive Isiah Leggett voted to fund six doses of the drug each month for county workers which is a change from the unlimited supply they had access to before.

Leggett a Democrat had argued that “lifestyle drugs” such as viagra which cost the county $400,000 last year should be eliminated to help close a $300 million budget shortfall.

But County Council member  Marc Elrich (D-At Large)  disagreed with Leggett  and told the Examiner that  it was a  quality of life issue which can affect relationships.

Because we know that relationships and in this case sexual relationships are far more important than being fiscally responsible and serving the taxpayers of Montgomery County which is what Elrich and his fellow council members were elected to do.

At least I’ll know that if my taxes go up in the future that I’ll be doing my part to keep county workers happy, very happy.

Last night the Montgomery County (MD) County Council passed a 5-cent bag tax that they hope will help save the environment at the expense of residents’ wallets.

The tax comes on the heels of a similar measure passed last year in the District of Columbia which has reduced overall bag use but has come at a cost to the local economy according to a study by the Beacon Hill Institute and Americans for Tax Reform.

According to the study, the bag tax will result in the elimination of more than 100 local jobs and precipitate a $5.64 million decline in aggregate disposable income this year alone.

That in turn will create a sales tax revenue loss of $108,340 and a reduction in investment of $602,000 most of it in the retail sector.

The District which had expected the tax to generate $3.5 million in revenue received just $2 million in the first year as shoppers either used reusable bags or did without them altogether.

Yet the tax disproportionally affects the people who can least afford it.  D.C. residents with cars can stash reusable bags in their vehicles or carry a few items from the store to their car without a bag but that isn’t the case with those that rely on public transportation.

Residents who live in the economically deprived areas of the city are far less likely to own a reusable bag or feel like they can afford to buy one and therefore have little choice but to pay the bag tax.

And even though I don’t drink, I just can’t see patrons carrying a reusable bag into the liquor store to buy a bottle of Jack.  Maybe I’m wrong here but it’s hard to envision someone sitting in a park taking a swig from a bottle that’s in a reusable bag.

Maybe someone can manufacture a single serve size reusable bag.

Another problem with the bags is that they get dirty very fast.

At a time when hand sanitizers are ubiquitous in public places researchers found that reusable bags are “seldom if ever washed,” and found that almost all bags tested had large amounts of bacteria turning them in effect into moving Petri dishes.

This should come as no surprise to those that use the bags as they often carry far more than just basic groceries throughout the week.

And when was the last time you washed your reusable bag?

As a Montgomery County resident I will be minimally affected by the new tax as I do most of my shopping at the warehouse stores where boxes are the norm for packing groceries and other purchases but I will miss the occasional bag which serves as a trash can liner or an easy way to carry lunch to work.

But what about those that are already pinched by a sluggish economy and job market?  Also I know of at least one low price grocery store that already charges 5 cents to customers who want a bag to carry their purchases.  Are they now going to charge 10 cents?

Rather than charge twice as much for a bag they will probably just raise prices to compensate for the loss of income which hurts everybody.

The new tax won’t affect the County Council members very much as they collect their $94,000 salaries and whip out their dirty reusable bags but it will hit the pocketbooks of already overburdened taxpayers as they try to make ends meet and live the American Dream.

On my drive into D.C. every morning I pass through the bucolic town of Chevy Chase , Md.  Several months ago the town or more properly village decided to install speed cameras on both sides of Connecticut Ave. which is the main thoroughfare that passes through the village leading into D.C.  This was my first up close look at what effect speed cameras have on driving habits and my conclusion is that the whole idea needs to be rethought.

My reasoning is this.  Connecticut Ave.  is a very heavily traveled road, so much so that during the morning and evening rush hours traffic rarely moves above 30 mph which is the speed limit for the road.  Thus the first effect is that traffic that is already moving at a snail’s pace comes to an almost complete stop as it approaches the camera’s  The three inbound lanes each have a camera and two of the three outbound lanes have one so you can imagine what this looks like.  While I don’t know of any reported accidents as a result of these particular cameras I have read reports of drivers slamming on the brakes at the last minute when they realize that there is a camera and causing accidents at other locations.

Another problem I have with these cameras is that drivers caught speeding can and have been ticketed only a block or two away by a police officer since they were still technically speeding.  I am not going to condone speeding but this smells like a definite revenue trap for the unsuspecting.  It’s not double jeopardy since one violation was from the camera at a spot different than where the officer ticketed the motorist.

There is no doubt that speed cameras are here to stay by virtue of the amount of money they generate for local jurisdictions and that trumps any supposed safety issue.  I propose that if it’s really about safety then operate the cameras when traffic is the heaviest and the risk is higher for accidents and turn them off in off-peak hours.   After all is it really a safety issue if someone is driving ten miles over the speed limit at midnight when there is little or no traffic?   Maybe it’s a dumb proposal but I would be far more convinced that the cameras serve a purpose other than that of a revenue generator if they were adjusted based on traffic volume.

If you think I’m off my rocker read this story on the arrangements Montgomery County, Md has with the private company operating the cameras.