Senate OKs bill to broaden protection of victims of...

ASSEMBLY DIGEST

February 22, 2002|By From staff reports

Senate OKs bill to broaden protection of victims of violence

The state Senate unanimously approved a bill yesterday that would permit domestic violence victims to seek legal protection from their abusers at night and on weekends.

The proposal would expand the powers of District Court commissioners when courts aren't open, letting them issue interim civil protection orders. The orders, forbidding alleged abusers from contact with those seeking protection, would be reviewed by district or circuit judges when courts reopen.

The legislation is pending in the House of Delegates. It would change the Maryland Constitution and would require approval from voters this fall before it could take effect.

Lobbyists seek to raise cigarette tax 70 cents

Anti-smoking advocates urged legislators yesterday to pass a 70-cents-per-pack increase in Maryland's cigarette tax, saying it would help reduce tobacco use and relieve budget pressures.

In 1999, advocates sought a $1-per-pack increase, but legislators settled on 30 cents. Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. of Montgomery County and Del. Barbara Frush of Prince George's County, both Democrats, have introduced bills this year for the 70-cents increase. The per-pack tax would go from 66 cents to $1.36, raising about $147.8 million next year.

Bill to let judges officiate at weddings nears passage

Judges would be permitted to officiate at weddings under a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Senate yesterday.

The House of Delegates has passed identical legislation, and final General Assembly approval is considered virtually certain.

Under current Maryland law, only officials of religious orders and Circuit Court clerks may perform marriage ceremonies.

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