Mining Bill Debated

Annapolis '91

March 31, 1991

ANNAPOLIS — A Carroll senator gave a boost Thursday to a bill sponsored by two Carroll delegates to protect residents who live near quarries from potential damage caused by mining.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, testified in support of the bill before the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill has passed the House.

"I think it was really significant that he came in to support it," said Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, a co-sponsor along with Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll. "He's a senator that doesn't put in many bills and actually takes pride in killing bad bills. Also, he's very well respected in the chamber."

The bill would require quarry companies to compensate property owners for depleted water supplies and sinkholes -- depressions of land -- within a state-established "zone of influence" around their operations. It would apply only in Carroll, Baltimore, Frederick and Washington counties, where limestone mining takes place.

EMISSION LEVELS OPPOSED

ANNAPOLIS-- Three Carroll delegates voted against and one voted for a bill designed to reduce pollution from vehicle emissions at a greater rate than required by federal law.

The House voted March 22, 75-59, for legislation that would put Maryland on par with the stringent standards for vehicle emissions set by California. The California standard is an option offered states to meet overall clean-air standards established in the Clean Air Act of 1990.

Delegates Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, and Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, opposed the measure, while Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, supported it. Elliott is listed as a co-sponsor on the bill, which moves to the Senate.

If the program is adopted, manufacturers would be notified to supply Maryland vehicle dealers with models equipped with enhanced emission reduction equipment, projected to cost between $70 and $170 extra per vehicle.

Car manufacturers and Maryland car and truck dealers opposed the measure, saying the higher costs would hinder business and the specially equipped vehicles would make exchanges with dealers in neighboring states more difficult.

Vehicle exhaust is recognized as the largest single source of air pollution.

Elliott said he voted against the bill on the House floor -- despite voting for it in committee -- because he wasconcerned it would have translate to higher prices for consumers. Hesaid it also could allow Maryland car dealers to form a sort of monopoly if neighboring states did not have the same requirements.

Earlier in the session, Elliott also was the only House Environmental Matters Committee member to vote against an administration bill that would extend Maryland's Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, which is required to meet federal air quality standards and receive federal money for transportation projects. Carroll is included in the program area.

Elliott's bill proposing that all jurisdictions contribute money to the inspection program, whether they are among the areas whereemissions testing is required or not, was killed earlier in the session.

SMELSER BILL REFERRED

ANNAPOLIS -- The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee assigned for study during the interim a bill sponsoredby Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, that wouldhave capped the state's social security contributions for teachers at 1991 salary levels.

Smelser and Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, the bill's co-sponsor, argued that the state should not continue to increase its Social Security contributions for local jurisdictions granting significant salary raises for teachers. If the jurisdictionswant to increase teacher salaries, they should be prepared to pay for the associated increases in Social Security costs, Smelser said.

Smelser added that his bill, prompted by the state's tight budget, has been addressed for this year by another bill and incorporated in the Senate version of the budget.

Educators argue that the bill would provide a disincentive for local governments to increase teacher salaries, hurting the competitiveness of Maryland public schools.

PAYING FOR SCHOOLING

ANNAPOLIS -- The legislature continues to work ona new tax measure that, if passed, would generate $82 million to help maintain current monetary levels for regional school districts, Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, said Monday.

Under present budget proposals, schools are set to lose $69.4 million next year, he said.

Haines said he supports this new tax, which will increasethe price of cigarettes by 18 cents. It will also remove tax exemptions on some foods and vendors such as colleges, universities and hospitals.

In other matters, Haines said an effort to repeal a sectionof law prohibiting interference with hunters was killed in committeethis week. The Department of Natural Resources and many Carroll countians opposed this bill.

Looking ahead to the 1992 general election, the Senate voted to change Maryland's presidential primary election day from the second to the first Tuesday in March, Haines said.

Lawmakers are hoping to bring more interest and business to the stateon Super Tuesday.

Since the legislature has voted to delay one quarter of the environmental bills introduced this session for further study, advocates may be worried that they've reached a crossroads in their drive for greater protection of Maryland's air, land and water,Haines said.

An amended version of the Forest Conservation bill passed the Senate. It included Haines' exemption for individual lots in which less than an acre of trees was cleared.

Haines' bill on one-time registration of historic vehicles manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 1946 (SB 720), passed the Senate, but was killed by the House Judiciary Committee last week.

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