House approves bill limiting billboard liquor ads

April 11, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

A coalition of Baltimore community groups won an upset victory yesterday as the state House of Delegates narrowly approved a bill that could ban liquor advertising on bill boards throughout the city.

The bill, which would give the mayor and City Council the authority to impose such a ban, now goes to the Senate, which has approved a different version of the legislation. But lawmakers predicted the House measure would get final legislative approval before the General Assembly adjourns at midnight tomorrow.

In other developments yesterday, the Senate approved a bill that would separate the Maryland Shock Trauma Center from the state's rescue network of MedEvac helicopters, ambulances and paramedics. The House is expected to give final legislative approval to the measure tomorrow.

The measure would give control of Shock Trauma to the private University of Maryland Medical System, while the rescue network would be publicly controlled. Thus, no one person would run both systems -- the job held by Shock Trauma founder R Adams Cowley and the recently dismissed Kimball I. Maull.

The billboard legislation was the result of concerns that liquor advertising is targeting residents of poor Baltimore neighborhoods, especially youngsters. It passed the House by a vote of 75-33, winning approval despite a strong lobbying effort by advertisers, the liquor industry and organized labor.

The bill as passed by the House is weaker than the Senate version -- which in itself would have made it illegal to display liquor ads on most billboards and walls in the city, without requiring further action by city officials.

But supporters nonetheless said they were happy with the outcome. They had sought state legislation only because the Baltimore city solicitor ruled that the mayor and City Council lacked the authority to impose such a ban.

Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, said he was optimistic Baltimore officials would use their new authority to ban the ads. If they don't, he said, he will work to push a more restrictive measure through the legislature next year.

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