Legislative Digest

LEGISLATIVE DIGEST

February 20, 2003|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Panel kills bill banning cell phone use in vehicles

For the fifth consecutive year, the House of Delegates has killed legislation making it illegal to use hand-held cell phones while driving.

The bill would have allowed drivers in most vehicles to make no calls other than to 911 in an emergency, and would have created a $500 fine for violators. Drivers would have been permitted to use cell phones with hands-free devices under the measure, which failed this week in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Board cuts $64 million in bonuses, higher education

The state Board of Public Works yesterday approved a cut of $64 million in employee bonuses and higher education funding, part of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s plan to balance the current year's budget.

The governor announced the cuts last month as part of a package to close a $544 million shortfall in the current fiscal year. Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening had cut $155 million, and most of the gap will be filled with surplus accounts.

State sells $589.5 million in bonds at low interest rate

Maryland sold $589.5 million in general obligation bonds yesterday at an interest rate of 3.5685 percent -- the second-lowest rate the state has ever received, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp said.

Maryland received the low interest rate largely because it maintained its AAA bond rating by the three major rating agencies, Kopp said, one of only eight states in the country.

The money will be used for construction, including $90.4 million for college facilities and $218.4 million for public schools.

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