Senate approves drunken-driving bill identical to...

ASSEMBLY DIGEST

March 23, 2002|By From staff reports

Senate approves drunken-driving bill identical to House's

The Maryland Senate unanimously approved a measure yesterday to prohibit open containers of alcohol in moving vehicles, virtually assuring passage of legislation long sought by advocates of tougher drunken-driving laws.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jennie M. Forehand of Montgomery County, is identical to one approved by the House. It would make an open-container violation a civil penalty with a $25 fine.

Though each chamber must still pass the other's bill, that is considered a formality.

Plan to give lawmakers more budget authority fails

A state constitutional amendment to give legislators more power over the budget won support from a majority of the Senate yesterday but fell two votes short of the three-fifths needed to be placed on the November ballot.

The proposed amendment sought to give the General Assembly the authority to shift funds within the governor's budget. Currently, the Assembly can cut money only from the governor's spending plan. It would have required approval from voters in a statewide referendum.

Maryland is the only state in which the legislature has such limited budget powers. Last year, an identical proposal fell four votes short of the 29 needed for passage.

Charter school measure passed by House, 104-29

The House of Delegates approved legislation yesterday to encourage competition in public schools through Maryland's first charter school law.

But the measure, approved 104-29, differs significantly from a bill approved by the Senate. Last year, both chambers passed charter school legislation, but they failed to resolve their differences.

Charter schools are public schools run by groups or institutions under contracts that give them public funding, as well as freedom from some regulations. Typically, they hire their own teachers and pick their own instructional programs, but their charters can be revoked if student achievement doesn't improve.

Vote canceled on allowing marijuana use by patients

A House committee chairman abruptly canceled a vote on a bill to legalize marijuana use for critically ill patients when he realized the measure would be approved.

"I'll be damned if I'm going to pass something that's against federal law," Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. told stunned members of the House Judiciary Committee last night. "I'm not going to put my hand on something that sends this kind of message to kids."

The bill, which has bipartisan support, has come before the committee twice before but has never been voted on. It would allow cancer, AIDS and other terminally ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's consent.

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