Bills to tighten seat-belt, emission laws pass SenateThe...

March 26, 1991

Bills to tighten seat-belt, emission laws pass Senate

The state Senate has passed and sent to the House of Delegates bills to expand Maryland's vehicle emissions testing program and strengthen the mandatory seat belt law.

The seat belt bill, approved on a 38-16 vote, is a weakened version of a bill proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

As amended, the bill would expand the seat belt law to cover pickups. It also would require children weighing up to 40 pounds to be strapped into a child safety seat and would require all children up to age 10 to wear seat belts if they are not riding in a safety seat. The current law only requires children up to 3 years old to ride in safety seats.

The emissions bill would expand the testing program to areas required by the federal government. The government is considering adding Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Queen Anne's and Washington and possibly Allegany counties.

The bill also would require drivers whose cars fail the test to spend at least $450, instead of the $75 they must spend under current law, to get a waiver and continue driving their vehicles. Cars built as long ago as 1968 would have to be tested. The cutoff date is now 1977.

LEAD BILLS PULLED

Three bills that would have shielded Baltimore landlords from lawsuits and costly lead-paint removal regulations have been withdrawn in return for a pledge from Governor Schaefer to seek a solution to the fractious issue.

A fourth bill, which would have required the state to screen all young children for lead poisoning, also has been pulled for study by a gubernatorial panel as yet unnamed.

State Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-City, said he withdrew two bills he had sponsored at the request of the governor's staff. His bills, which would have made it easier for landlords to evict tenants and board up properties containing hazardous lead paint, were attacked by legal and health advocates, who complained they ** would have forced poor tenants to choose between lead poisoning and homelessness.

A third withdrawn bill, sponsored by Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, D-City, would have declared that the mere presence of lead paint in a rental home no longer violates the state habitability code. The measure was intended to help landlords fight lawsuits filed by former tenants alleging their children were poisoned in their homes.

The lead poisoning screening bill, sponsored by Del. SamueRosenberg, D-City, was withdrawn after administration officials indicated they supported its intent but could not afford its $7 million price tag.

Pica said he understood that the governor would name a tasforce to study the lead poisoning problem. But Bruce Martin, one of Schaefer's legislative aides, said that, while the governor "has decided to do something," he has not decided yet just what.

TIRE BILL ROLLING

The House of Delegates has approved a bill designed to rid the state of millions of discarded tires.

The bill, which passed 109-23 yesterday, would cost motorists $1 for every new or used tire purchased in the state, generating $4 million a year that would be used to eliminate tire dumps and replace them with recycling centers.

The bill would require the Maryland Environmental Service to set up regional tire-disposal centers across the state to handle the -- redirected influx of some 15 million tires already abandoned in dumps, plus 4 million additional tires discarded each year.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

COLLEGE COSTS EYED

A Schaefer administration bill to revise the way the state helps fund community college costs was approved by the House of Delegates yesterday.

Governor Schaefer said the bill will reduce the share of tuition costs paid by students.

But some opponents complained that it will also give more money to community colleges in poorer counties at the expense of wealthier counties.

The bill still must get Senate approval before going to the governor for his signature.

FOREIGN AID DEBATED

Over the objections of a few members, the House stepped into the field of foreign affairs yesterday.

First, delegates voted 95-13 to ask the president and Congress to withhold favored trade status from the Soviet Union unless it recognizes the independence of the Baltic nations.

Then, the House voted 91-13 to ask Congress to provide aid to help rebuild Liberia's shattered economy.

PARKS FUNDS SOUGHT

A bill that would allow local governments to issue bonds to finance the purchase of state-approved parkland acquisition projects has won the House of Delegates' approval.

The bill would provide officials with another way of buying parkland in the face of budget cuts to the state's parkland acquisition program, called Program Open Space.

The bill, which passed 126-1 yesterday, goes to the Senate.

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