Assembly Digest

ASSEMBLY DIGEST

March 26, 2005|By From staff reports

Bill forcing big firms to pay for health care gaining momentum

Legislation that would force large employers to pay for workers' health care gained momentum yesterday as the House of Delegates passed the bill, 84-50, and a Senate committee endorsed it, 7-4.

The bill would require all companies in the state with 10,000 or more employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on worker health care or to pay into a fund for the uninsured. Only one company, Wal-Mart, would be affected by the bill now.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has not taken a formal position on the bill but has concerns about any legislation that puts additional tax burdens on Maryland businesses, spokesman Henry Fawell said.

Senate OKs restricting governor on land sales

The state Senate unanimously approved two measures yesterday that would restrict the governor's ability to sell state land.

One bill would ask voters to amend the Maryland constitution to require legislative approval before the governor could sell state land. The other would force the state to hold public hearings, get at least two independent appraisals and hold a public auction before selling parkland or land bought through various preservation programs. The House of Delegates has not voted on either proposal.

Both bills came in the aftermath of an aborted attempt by the Ehrlich administration to sell 836 acres of St. Mary's County forest land to Willard Hackerman, the Baltimore construction magnate, without guarantees that it would be preserved. For months, the governor expressed skepticism about the need to change the process for land sales, but this week he endorsed the bills and encouraged Republican senators to switch positions and support them.

Tighter pollution limits on power plants killed

A bill designed to tighten restrictions on pollutants from power plants was effectively killed yesterday when the state Senate sent it back to committee after learning the legislation had been rejected by a House panel.

The bill would have set stricter new limits on nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide. A coalition of environmental groups was pushing the measure and blamed its defeat on lobbying by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which opposed the bills.

House approves measure giving ex-officers tax break

The House of Delegates unanimously approved a bill yesterday that would exempt some veterans from paying state tax on their military retirement income.

The House bill, designed to help keep veterans from moving out of Maryland to other states, would apply only to veterans who were not officers.

Some delegates argued that the bill should have included all veterans. They vowed to push for a more inclusive version of the bill that is working its way through the Senate.

From staff reports

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