Assembly Digest

ASSEMBLY DIGEST

February 14, 2004

House vote reaffirms state commitment to schools funding

The House of Delegates yesterday reaffirmed Maryland's commitment to a $1.3-billion- a-year schools funding package, approving a bill that majority Democrats hope will remove a legal cloud from the program.

Acting on advice from the state attorney general, delegates passed a bill on a 93-43 vote to remove a so-called trigger provision from a schools reform bill approved in 2002. The trigger mechanism required lawmakers to vote next month on whether the state had the money to pay for the program, but lawyers said the resolution would be unconstitutional.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Republicans argued that the trigger should stay in place and that lawmakers should demonstrate fiscal discipline by conducting a full debate on whether Maryland can afford the schools program, also known as the Thornton Plan. The Senate will consider the measure next.

Bill to ban using phone while driving is killed

Lawmakers in Annapolis killed a bill yesterday that would have made it illegal to use a phone while driving, except in emergencies.

The House bill, co-sponsored by Democrats Del. John S. Arnick and Del. Adrienne A. Mandel, would have made chatty driving a misdemeanor crime, punishable by a $500 fine.

Members of the Environmental Matters Committee rejected the measure, which was also introduced last year, by a vote of 13 to 7.

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