Some travel agents in Maryland are beginning to take a somewhat jaundiced view of a bill before the legislature whose provisions ultimately might impose on them a $400 annual fee and could contain bonding and insurance regulations that prove to be superfluous, onerous or both.

We, too, have our doubts.

The measure, which would regulate travel agencies and independent agents, is designed to protect a public that, as far as we can tell, needs little or no protection from the retail trade.

In a knee-jerk reaction to the singular shutdown of a Maryland agency last year, legislators now are suggesting that the roughly 400 agencies in the state foot the cost of administering the proposed program.

Ironically, while all firms in Maryland would be assessed the estimated annual fee if one is imposed, the vast majority of them would not be covered by the bill's bonding and insurance mandates inasmuch as the measure specifically exempts agencies that have operated under the same management for three years.

Moreover, most well-established firms already carry sufficient errors and omissions coverage and hardly need the state to affirm their financial stability.

If the Maryland legislature is truly interested in responding to what it insists is a growing number of consumer travel complaints, it would be better served by focusing on the schemers and scammers who masquerade as operators.

Although we do not agree with state assistant attorney general Rebecca Bowman when she suggests that travel agencies should be required to post a bond even higher than the $25,000 in the bill's current language, we can only wonder along with her when she told Travel Weekly that she questioned whether the program was necessary at all.

It's not.

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