Senate poised to approve bill to weaken smoking ban

IN THE LEGISLATURE

March 15, 1995|By From Staff Reports

The state Senate gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that would weaken Maryland's landmark workplace smoking ban.

Senators voted 35-8 to exempt bars, hotels and businesses with liquor licenses, including restaurants, concert halls, auditoriums, theaters and clubs.

The bill would not affect other aspects of the anti-smoking regulation, which is scheduled to take effect March 27. The regulation, one of the toughest in the nation, would continue to ban smoking in offices, factories, stores and restaurants that do not serve alcohol. It would allow smoking in specially ventilated, enclosed employee lounges.

The Senate may take a final vote as early as today, when the House of Delegates is expected to debate an almost identical bill.

A few senators said they were concerned that the exemptions bill would overturn stricter local anti-smoking laws, such as one in Howard County. They tried to amend the bill yesterday to make it clear that local ordinances would be unharmed.

However, the Senate rebuffed the amendment as unnecessary. Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the legislation would not affect local laws -- a view that is shared by the Maryland attorney general's office.

'Deadbeat' parents could lose licenses

A bill that would strip 'deadbeat' parents of their driver's licenses was passed by a House committee yesterday.

House Bill 248 would require the state Motor Vehicle Administration to suspend a parent's driver's license if the parent was three months behind in child support payments. The Maryland Department of Fiscal Services estimates that approximately 100,400 driver's licenses could be suspended in the first year.

The House Judiciary Committee has killed the bill in past legislative sessions. This year the bill was heard by the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, which voted 14-8 to approve it.

Critics say the measure could cost people their jobs. Del. John S. Arnick said the bill did not clearly provide a way for people to continue to drive to work. "The real safeguards aren't in there," said Mr. Arnick, a Baltimore County Democrat.

The bill's sponsor, Del. Mark K. Shriver, a Montgomery County Democrat, said he was pleased it would come to a vote before the entire House of Delegates.

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