Senate beginning reprise of debate over abortion
Almost a year after it left the controversial abortion question unanswered, the state Senate today quietly began what was expected to be at least a day-long debate over a major abortion rights bill.
While abortion foes launched an organized attack on the bill, they showed no apparent willingness to engage in a bitter filibuster like the one that rocked last year's General Assembly session.
"It is not our intent to filibuster this bill, it is our intent to debate," said Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, the outspoken leader of the Senate anti-abortion movement.
Lawmakers who advocate abortion rights are backing a bill that would allow women to have abortions up to the time a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. The only restriction is a requirement that parents be notified when their underage daughters seek abortions.
Abortion opponents in the Senate are expected to offer at least 10 restrictive amendments, including provisions that would make illegal for abortion clinics to advertise or for women to use abortion as a means of sex selection.
In floor action yesterday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, who backs the notification provision, told anti-abortion lawmakers to come to today's session ready to offer amendments and to debate.
AT ODDS OVER LOCKUP
Baltimore officials view it as partial amnesty from their budget troubles, but some City Jail employees are opposed to the planned state takeover of the lockup.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, bowing to requests from the city, included in his proposed fiscal 1992 budget a plan to assume control of the jail and its $40 million-a-year operating costs. The state would, in return, keep some $38 million in police aid targeted for the city.
City officials consider the deal -- the centerpiece of the governor's aid package for Baltimore this year -- important because it shields the city from future increases in the cost of operating the jail.
But about 70 uniformed jail employees and supporters crowded into a small meeting room of the city's Senate delegation yesterday to protest the takeover.
The 750 guards, cooks and other workers at the jail are concerned about losing their bargaining rights, seniority, pension credit and identity, according to testimony at the hearing.
The employees also said they are concerned about the benefit reductions and threat of layoffs facing state workers. City workers have collective bargaining rights while state workers do not.
Several senators told the workers that they sympathized with them, but the takeover was important for the cash-strapped city.
"We desperately need assistance for the city, and this is the only vehicle we have available to us," said Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-City.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the governor's staff, an attorney for one of the jail unions suggests that provisions be added to the takeover legislation that would retain the union's right to represent workers in grievance proceedings and provide wage and benefit protection and job security.
Is a gubernatorial plan to raise $800 million in new taxes gaining support?
Yes, contends Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. As the economic picture grows more bleak for local governments, legislators are beginning to take a closer look at the tax-restructuring plan, he said.
"I'm just seeing a change in the context in which this is being discussed," said Schmoke.
The mayor, Caroline County school Superintendent William Ecker and other supporters were in Annapolis yesterday to lobby for the plan, developed by a gubernatorial commission headed by Montgomery County lawyer R. Robert Linowes. The Schaefer administration plans to introduce legislation that would implement the tax plan.
"There are a lot of so-called wealthy jurisdictions that are facing a new financial environment," said Schmoke, who noted that Montgomery County has a deficit three times larger than poorer Baltimore's.
Not everyone, however, sees a warming trend toward the Linowes plan, including Baltimore legislators.
"Linowes is dead on arrival, for all intents and purposes," said Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount, D-City.
REGULATION OF CLUBS
Democratic Dels. Leon Albin, Theodore Levin and Richard Rynd have filed a bill that would enable the Baltimore County liquor board to regulate clubs in which patrons provide their own alcoholic beverages.
The bill is aimed at Body Talk, a club in a small brick storefront in the 8100 block of Liberty Road in Rockdale. It began in May 1990 as a pool hall with nude rack girls and was expanded to include nude dancing. It has been able to avoid sanctions by the liquor board because it does not sell alcohol.
A bill heard yesterday before the House Economic Matters Committee would require businesses that don't sell alcohol but allow patrons to bring their own to obtain a special "no-sale" permit from the Liquor Board. The bill also would give the board power to deny or revoke such a permit if the business offered nude entertainment.