House passes reforms in state's student-aid programs
The House of Delegates today passed a heavily amended version of a Senate bill designed to reform Maryland's student financial aid programs.
The bill, which was introduced by the Schaefer administration, would reorganize and modify many of the state's college scholarship programs.
The proposal would place greater emphasis on students' financial need, rather than where they live, in the awarding of scholarships. The proposal is expected to affect more than 20,000 students and would be completely in place by 1996.
If the Senate does not agree with the House's changes, members from both chambers will try to work out the differences.
BATTERED SPOUSE BILL
The House of Delegates today approved a Senate bill that would make it easier for women charged with killing or assaulting their husbands or boyfriends to introduce evidence of abuse at a trial.
The Schaefer administration supports the bill, which calls on judges to accept evidence of "battered-spouse syndrome," a condition similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The House amended the Senate bill to restore references to the battered-spouse syndrome that the Senate had deleted. The House also provided definitions of the syndrome.
If the Senate does not agree with House changes, the bill will be sent to a conference committee to resolve the differences.
BIAS COMPLAINT FILED
Two female state employees have filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that a plan to lengthen the state workweek from 35.5 hours to 40 hours discriminates against women.
Meanwhile, state workers yesterday lost their last chance for a legislative reversal of the longer workweek ordered by the governor.
The longer workweek would hurt more women than men because women make up a larger percentage of the affected work force, said William Bolander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The two women who filed the complaint are AFSCME members.
"It creates special hardships on women, many of whom are single parents," Bolander said. Many women will have to make additional day-care arrangements because of the longer workweek, he said.
Bolander identified the women who filed the complaint as Gloria Chawla, a University of Maryland College Park employee, and Connie Powell, a State Highway Administration employee.
Gov. Schaefer has signed an executive order to increase the standard workweek for state employees to 40 hours. Currently, about two-thirds of the 65,000 state workers are scheduled for 35.5-hour weeks.
A bill by Del. Clarence Davis, D-City, originally mandated a 35.5-hour week. But a heavily amended version, which won tentative approval yesterday from the House, requests that the governor study alternative methods of implementing the longer workweek.
A heavily lobbied insurance bill that would penalize companies that delay paying claims narrowly won approval from the Senate yesterday. The bill, supported by the state's trial lawyers and vigorously opposed by the insurance industry, was sent to the House of Delegates on a 24-22 vote.
The measure would allow consumers to seek punitive damages in court against insurers that balk at paying off claims. Supporters insisted that the measure is necessary to make insurers comply with their obligations.
The industry argued that the measure would undercut efforts to fight fraud. The bill would send a signal to insurers to pay all claims, even if they are of a suspicious nature, opponents argued. They also complained that the bill would eventually result in higher premiums and could threaten the solvency of many smaller insurance companies.
CAMPAIGN BILL HOT
The Senate also continued yesterday what has become one of the 1991 session's most heated debates, over a bill that would forbid lawmakers to raise campaign money during the 90-day session. The measure essentially would write into state law an unwritten legislative rule imposed by General Assembly leaders three years ago.
"The premise of the bill is simply one of addressing a perception the electorate has . . . that we are about a process that excludes the average citizen . . . and that there are all these big players and a lot of unseemly things going on," said Sen. Michael J. Collins, D-Balto. Co.
Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, led the opposition, complaining that the bill "is totally unnecessary, and I regard it as an insult."
The debate will continue Monday when the Senate considers an amendment that would only bar lawmakers from accepting contributions from lobbyists.
AUDIT BILL NIXED
In other action, the Senate turned back an attempt to force out of committee a bill that would allow legislative auditors to look at the books of private foundations affiliated with Maryland universities and colleges.
Last week, the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee killed a bill by Sen. Julian Lapides, D-City, that would have allowed legislative audits of foundations associated with public institutions, primarily universities and colleges.
Lapides moved to reverse the committee's action but was rebuffed on a 20-26 vote.
Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, argued for the bill, saying recent scandals involving foundations connected to Frostburg State University and the State Games program were evidence of a need for independent examinations of such foundations.