The House of Delegates has approved a bill that would allow highway officials to raise the speed limit to 65 mph on expressways in sparsely populated areas.
Opponents of the bill, which was passed 88 to 48 Friday, said it would increase traffic deaths. They also said delegates stripped it of several safety measures, including a ban on radar detectors.
Most of the eligible roads are interstate highways in Western Maryland. But the speed also could be increased on Interstate 83 and Interstate 95 north of Baltimore, Interstate 97 in Anne Arundel County, portions of U.S. 50 in Anne Arundel and Queen Anne's counties and the U.S. 13 bypass around Salisbury.
The measure, House Bill 405, now goes to the Senate.
Bill aimed at adults who let minors drink
The House voted last week to prohibit parents and other adults from "knowingly and willing" allowing underage drinkers to consume alcohol in their homes.
Supporters said House Bill 730, which was approved Friday 99 to 36, is aimed at adults who allow teens to drink alcohol at parties.
Opponents argued that it already is against state law to "contribute to the delinquency of a minor." They also said the bill could create strange situations. For instance, a 21-year-old college student could be held liable for the drinking of an underage roommate.
Del. Dana Dembrow, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the bill sends the wrong message to parents who try to keep their children from drinking and driving.
"I submit that taking the [car] keys is the right thing to do," Mr. Dembrow said. "This bill sends kids back out into the cars, back out into the street."
The bill moves to the Senate.
Measure would protect protesters from suits
The House moved last week to protect protesters from lawsuits designed specifically to muzzle their objections.
House Bill 142 would protect citizens who object or voice opposition to someone or something from suits known as "strategic lawsuits against public participation," or SLAPP suits.
The bill, approved 131 to 4 Friday, now goes to the Senate.
Ruppersberger backs car theft bill
Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III appealed to state lawmakers last week to get tough on car thieves.
Mr. Ruppersberger asked the House Judiciary Committee on Friday to support House Bill 497, which would make motor vehicle theft a specific crime and impose tougher sentences.
Maryland has no law specifically dealing with car theft. Most car thieves escape serious punishment because it is difficult to convict them under the state's general theft statute, officials say.
The bill would establish a separate category of first degree felony motor theft, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
To receive, by fax, a copy of the Maryland General Assembly legislative hearing schedule for the week, dial 332-6123. Enter the information number 5959.
To receive the schedule automatically each week, call the electronic news desk at 332-6893.