Legislature enacts suburban sprawl measure

April 07, 1992|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- While its negotiators wrangled desperately with the budget, the General Assembly yesterday enacted bills to control suburban sprawl throughout Maryland and to strengthen legal protections for battered women.

The sprawl bill, which was sponsored by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, attempts to limit sprawling development by directing counties and cities to follow guidelines when adopting land-use plans and development regulations.

The guidelines call for concentrating future construction in suitable areas, protecting environmentally sensitive areas, streamlining regulations and encouraging economic growth.

"The growth bill will do more to change the way Maryland looks -- the way people live, where shopping centers are built and where schools are built," said David S. Iannucci, the governor's chief lobbyist.

Yesterday was the last day the state legislature could pass non-budget bills during the regular session.

The governor introduced a stronger growth-control bill last year that would have required local governments to direct future growth to already developed areas. But developers and local government officials cried foul and helped shoot it down. The current bill, which has their support, allows counties to decide how and where development should occur.

Legislators beefed up a few provisions after environmentalists complained the measure did not do nearly enough to manage growth.

The legislature also enacted the governor's domestic violence bill, under the watchful eyes of female supporters who feared some male delegates might quash it.

"We literally expect lives to be saved by that measure," Mr. Iannucci said.

The bill enables battered women to seek a court order forcing their abusers to stay away from them for a maximum of 200 days, rather than the current 30-day limit.

"Thirty days simply wasn't enough time for a woman to get her life back together and for the tension that caused the violence to diminish," Mr. Iannucci said.

The bill also allows those women to seek temporary financial support and have their abuser move out of a shared home temporarily.

The legislation extends protections to separated and divorced women, and to women who have lived with an abusive boyfriend for at least 90 days in the past year.

The bill prompted finger pointing between female supporters and some male delegates who were worried about men's rights.

Some female delegates complained that male leaders of the House Judiciary Committee dragged their feet on the bill and appointed men unfriendly to the bill to serve as House negotiators on it.

The governor, of course, plans to sign his own bills into law.

The debate was far more heated over a politically loaded Prince George's County ethics bill that the House passed last night.

The House approved the bill 84-22 despite members' complaints that some senators made political threats against delegates who opposed it. If the governor signs it into the law, the bill would restrict developers' campaign contributions to local politicians in Prince George's County, although it allows money to be funneled through a slate of candidates.

Opponents said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's Democrat, fought hard for the bill because it would hurt a political rival, County Executive Parris N. Glendening.

Mr. Glendening said the bill could restrict his fund raising for a 1994 gubernatorial campaign.

Several controversial bills appeared unlikely to survive the countdown to the midnight adjournment.

A House bill that would allow gambling on international cruise ships in part of Chesapeake Bay was languishing in the Senate, where a committee killed similar legislation last year.

Opponents, including the Maryland State Police, say the measure could attract organized crime and money launderers. Senators seemed inclined to agree.

The same Senate committee, Judicial Proceedings, also was sitting on a civil rights bill that barely survived the House.

Modeled after the federal Civil Rights Act, the legislation would provide more protection at the state level for victims of racial, sexual or religious discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The bill took two votes to get out of the House, where male delegates complained about the sexual harassment provisions. Supporters believed the conservative Senate committee would kill it.

A plan to merge the University of Maryland System's campuses in downtown Baltimore and Catonsville also seemed stalled in a Senate committee.

Legislative score card

Here is the status of major legislation as the 1992 session of the General Assembly drew to a close last night. An asterisk (*) denotes part of the governor's official legislative package. indicates enactment. indicates a bill failed. indicates a measure was still pending late last night.

Education

Baltimore City Community College*: Continues state oversight and support.* Approved.

St. Mary's College reorganization*: Reduces school's reliance on state support and grants more autonomy. Approved.

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