Assembly Digest

ASSEMBLY DIGEST

March 29, 2005|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

The House of Delegates passed several bills yesterday that would affect elections in Maryland, including a measure to create a commission studying whether electronic voting machines should print paper receipts.

Advocates of voter-verified paper trails said the bill, HB 479, did not go far enough and should have required paper receipts immediately.

Another bill, HB 675, would require the governor to appoint members to the state Board of Elections who had been selected by the central committees of the Democratic and Republican parties. The Senate has already approved a similar measure.

House OKs bill to tighten limits on malpractice suits

Saying they wanted to go further than legislation passed during a special session late last year, the House of Delegates unanimously passed yesterday a bill designed to lower the malpractice premiums of doctors by tightening restrictions on lawsuits.

The bill, HB 114, would allow doctors to apologize to victims' families without their statements being used against them, and would lower the cap on pain and suffering damages in wrongful-death cases to $500,000 from $650,000, among other changes.

The measure faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, which voted against several of the provisions this year.

House OKs bill addressing how to pay for the ICC

A long-studied connector highway in the Washington suburbs would be paid for mainly through borrowing against the promise of federal funds under legislation approved by the House of Delegates yesterday.

Construction of the Intercounty Connector would use $750 million from bonds repaid with federal highway dollars, and $265 million in general funds under the legislation.

Building the highway is among Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s top priorities.

Fetus-manslaughter bill approved by the House

The House of Delegates approved a bill (HB 398) yesterday that would make the murder or manslaughter of a viable fetus a crime.

Inspired by the Laci Peterson case in California, the bill passed by a 108-20 vote.

The bill states that it does not confer "personhood or any rights on the fetus." The death of a fetus by an assailant who also kills the mother would not be considered an aggravating circumstance to make the crime eligible for the death penalty under the legislation. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.

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