Highlights of the session

General Assembly

April 13, 2004

ABORTION

Opponents of abortion sought to have abortion clinics regulated like other outpatient medical facilities, without success. Also rejected was the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would have provided additional penalties for someone who assaults a pregnant woman, resulting in the injury or death of her fetus. Abortion-rights supporters feared that the measure would assign legal rights to the unborn.

ASSAULT WEAPONS

An effort to replace an expiring federal ban on sale of assault-style rifles failed by one vote in committee.

DEATH PENALTY

Bills to impose a moratorium on executions or study discrepancies in the application of capital punishment among jurisdictions failed.

DRUG OFFENSES

The governor's plan to emphasize treatment instead of incarceration for people charged with nonviolent offenses passed. It would authorize local prosecutors to offer drug and alcohol addiction treatment instead of jail. The charges would be wiped out if the offender successfully completed the program.

GAY MARRIAGE

Efforts to further restrict same-sex unions from being recognized in Maryland were defeated, as was a medical decision-making bill to allow unmarried adults to register one another to make decisions on their behalf in the event of medical emergencies or death.

HISTORIC TAX CREDIT

The governor's bill extending the life of the historic preservation tax credit passed, but with new restraints on commercial projects and a 50 percent cap on Baltimore's share.

MOTORISTS

A proposal to prohibit newly licensed motorists from using a cell phone while driving died, as did measures to limit rookie drivers from having unrelated minors as passengers.

SLOTS

For the second year in a row, an effort to legalize casino-style gambling machines passed the Senate but failed in the House. Supporters vowed to try again.

SMOKING

A proposal to expand a ban on indoor smoking to bars and restaurants was defeated.

TAXES

Resistance to a House package that would have raised $670 million a year through adjustments to sales, income and property taxes was dropped. But the Senate, and governor, vowed to oppose the measure and it never advanced. Lawmakers adjourned with a balanced budget for the next fiscal year but no resolution for projected revenue shortfalls in coming years.

TRANSPORTATION

Disagreements over raising the gasoline tax and other measures left the state's Transportation Trust Fund well short of the estimated $300 million a year in extra revenues that a commission said were needed to fund roads and transit projects. Instead, lawmakers agreed to raise $165.5 million a year by increasing vehicle registration and other fees. Meanwhile, efforts to stop the Intercounty Connector, a proposed highway linking Interstates 270 and 95 through Montgomery and Prince George's counties, failed.

TUITION

Lawmakers agreed to cap university tuition increases at 5 percent, while guaranteeing 5 percent increases for university budgets through a temporary higher tax on corporations. The governor has said he would veto the plan.

VACCINES

Pharmacists won the power to administer flu shots and nasal sprays to help adults stave off the influenza.

VOTING

Efforts to delay the implementation of the state's new electronic voting system, or to require the devices to print a paper record of each voter's ballot for use in a recount, failed.

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