Capital Notebook

Capital Notebook

March 11, 2006

Impeachment measure rejected

The House Judiciary Committee has rejected a proposal to impeach a Baltimore judge who sided with 19 gays and lesbians and ruled that Maryland's marriage law discriminates against same-sex couples.

The committee voted 20-3 late Thursday night that a proposal from Del. Donald H. Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican, had no merit.

Voting with Dwyer were Del. Tanya Thornton Shewell, who represents Baltimore and Carroll counties, and Del. Christopher B. Shank of Washington County. Both are Republicans.

"I have kept my commitment to the citizens of Maryland," Dwyer said yesterday. "I have pledged I would hold this court accountable. Unfortunately, my colleagues do not agree we have to do so."

Shortly after Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled in the case, Dwyer and other Republicans pushed efforts that would ban same-sex marriage in the constitution.

Although Murdock stayed her decision pending an appeal that was immediately filed, conservative lawmakers feared that Maryland would go the direction of Massachusetts and legalize same-sex unions.

Critics said Dwyer's attempt to impeach Murdock went too far and was an attempt to intimidate judges for doing their job.

Others said they were weary of the debate.

Kelly Brewington

Schaefer projects more revenue than expected

With tax collections up, more revenue than expected should pour into the state's coffers, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer announced yesterday. Schaefer, chairman of the state Board of Revenue Estimates, said his office has raised general fund revenue projections $114 million for the current budget year and by nearly $87 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But Schaefer tempered the good news.

"I'm glad the numbers are good, but we have to consider some major threats to Maryland's economy this year and down the road," he said in a statement. "The housing market is slowing and energy costs could rise 70 percent or more this year. That's going to hurt a lot of people and cripple those who can't afford to pay their utility bills now."

The Board of Revenue Estimates partly attributes the upswing to the state's 3.6 percent unemployment rate.

Jill Rosen

Bill to cut power plant pollutants clears committee

A bill that would cut power plant pollutants throughout Maryland cleared its first legislative hurdle yesterday.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 7-4 in favor of the Healthy Air Act.

The bill would cut pollutants from plants by up to 90 percent by forcing them to install pollution control equipment.

Yesterday, Gov. Robert. L. Ehrlich Jr. called the Senate's passage of the bill "a direct threat to electricity prices and supplies in Maryland," saying it would raise consumer prices and force power companies out of business.

The governor has proposed regulations that would cut air pollution, but the rules do not go as far as the Healthy Air Act in some areas.

League of Conservation Voters spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said yesterday that the vast majority of Marylanders across party lines support the Senate's pollution control proposal.

"It's pretty obvious that the power companies aren't looking out for the interests of Marylanders, our health or our environment," Stoltzfus said.

Jill Rosen

College Park Democrat Menes to step down after 40 years

Forty years is enough for Maryland's longest-serving state delegate.

Del. Pauline H. Menes, an 81-year-old Democrat from College Park, said yesterday that she will not run again. She served 10 terms and was first elected in 1966.

"As much as I've enjoyed being here, I felt that it was time to move on," Menes said.

Joining a House comprised almost entirely of men, Menes' tenure included becoming the first woman chosen to sit on the House Judiciary Committee. In the 1970s, she sponsored Maryland's first child-abuse laws.

Before running for office, Menes was a community activist and homemaker.

Associated Press

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