Legislative Highlights

April 13, 1993|By From Staff Reports

Here are highlights of the 1993 Maryland General Assembly, which ended at midnight:

Baltimore

The city scored its biggest victory on the final day of the session, gaining approval of a $150 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center.

An attempt to force changes in the Baltimore school system was a major point of contention in budget negotiations. Senators and delegates wanted school officials to implement a consultant's recommendations for change. The House tried to hold back nearly $5 million in state aid to ensure those changes, but the Senate disagreed. In the end, legislators voted to require the changes but didn't withhold any money.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke again sought permission for the city to give clean needles to drug addicts in an attempt to slow the spread of AIDS, but the Assembly again said no.

It also rejected a proposal by the mayor aimed at reducing car insurance rates for city residents.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to give 200 low-income city youngsters vouchers to help pay for private and parochial schools was killed. Proposals to create special taxing districts that would allow city neighborhoods to buy additional security and sanitation services also failed.

But a bill backed by a coalition of Baltimore community groups that gives the mayor and City Council authority to ban liquor advertising on billboards was approved yesterday.

Budget

Lawmakers approved a nearly $12.5 billion spending plan for the year that begins July 1. Balanced without new taxes, it contains a $195.3 million increase in state aid to the 23 counties and Baltimore, the bulk of it for public schools.

To appease legislators from Montgomery County, which was hit hardest in the last round of cuts last year, the budget includes money for school systems with high attendance levels and large numbers of students for whom English is a second language.

The budget also contains $1 million for family planning for poor Marylanders, including Norplant and the offer of vasectomies to inmates leaving prison. It eliminates almost 1,200 government jobs, most of them vacant.

Legislators trimmed $227 million from the governor's proposal, but much of that came from two items: the state's decision not to

build another terminal at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and lower estimates of how many Marylanders will need medical assistance and welfare next year.

Criminal justice

Reacting to highly publicized crimes, legislators agreed to make carjacking a separate crime with a maximum 30-year prison term. Both houses also passed legislation outlawing the kind of continuing harassment called stalking. Details of the final bill were being negotiated as the session neared its end.

A series of bills to speed up death penalty cases and another to change the method of execution to lethal injection passed the Senate but failed in the House.

Environment

The main action was passage of the administration's "California cars" bill, which could require cars sold in Maryland to meet strict anti-pollution standards as early as 1997. Some environmentalists were disappointed because the law will not go into effect unless at least two neighboring states pass similar laws.

The Senate passed bills that would have given the state greater control over landfill permits and required plastic bottles to be made of at least 25 percent recycled materials. They died in a House committee. A Senate measure to force farmers to limit runoff from fertilizers and animal waste also failed. A measure to put an extra state tax on new cars considered gas guzzlers -- and to give a rebate for fuel-efficient models -- died in committee.

Health care

Health care became the main issue of the session. The Assembly passed landmark health reform legislation that is designed to make medical insurance more available and easier to afford for employees of small companies. The measure also gives a new commission power to monitor and eventually control the fees charged by doctors and other health care providers.

Another successful bill bars doctors from referring patients to clinics in which they have a financial interest. It, too, is aimed at reducing health care costs

The Assembly also approved a "right to die" measure that will give Marylanders more say in how far their doctors go to keep them alive if they are battling a fatal illness.

Legislators tackled contentious issues at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore just as Dr. Kimball I. Maull was being fired as its director. The Assembly passed administration-backed legislation that gives control of Shock Trauma to the private University of Maryland Medical System.

Under the bill, no individual will have the same job as that held by Dr. Maull and the late Dr. R Adams Cowley, who founded the center. They were in charge not only of Shock Trauma, but also of the state's rescue network of MedEvac helicopters, ambulances and paramedics.

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