Capital Notebook

Capital Notebook

March 22, 2006

House panels likely to OK stem cell bill

Two House committees are expected this week to approve a stem cell research proposal passed by the Senate that allows the governor to put money for research in the annual budget but doesn't demand funding.

"We definitely want to do this sooner rather than later," said Del. Kumar P. Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat who sits on the Health and Government Operations Committee, which is scheduled to vote on the bill today. "We support the Senate bill. We wish it had money in it."

Earlier in the session, the House passed a bill that committed $25 million annually and gave priority to embryonic stem cell research proposals, for which federal funding has been restricted by President Bush.

But many conservatives liken embryonic stem cell research to abortion, because human embryos must be destroyed. So, in an effort to get a bill to the governor's desk, lawmakers have chosen to back the Senate plan, which does not give priority to embryonic projects.

The full House is expected to vote on the legislation next week. House Speaker Michael E. Busch has said he would like to get a bill to the governor's desk by March 31, which would give the Assembly enough time to override a gubernatorial veto before the end of the session.

"The intention here is to pass this bill clean so we can move forward with funding stem cell research," said Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the health committee.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote Friday on the matter.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has said he doesn't believe legislation is necessary, saying that a $20 million proposed appropriation he included in his budget plan is adequate.

Jennifer Skalka

Bill gives protection to homeless

The state Senate gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that would classify crimes against homeless people as hate crimes.

Supporters say the bill, sponsored by Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Frederick County Republican, would make Maryland the first state in the country to make the homeless a protected class of people.

Under the measure, crimes against the homeless would be considered similar to crimes committed against people because of race, sexual orientation or religious belief.

"Like we did for the homosexuals last year," Mooney said. Last year the General Assembly added gays to those protected under hate crime laws.

Jill Rosen

Cheney to headline Steele event

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele will get another big boost from the Bush administration when Vice President Dick Cheney headlines a reception for him in Washington next month, according to an invitation obtained by The Sun.

Though the White House won't confirm the function, the invitation shows that attendees at the April 7 event must contribute $5,000 per individual or political action committee for a photo opportunity and $1,000 for the general reception.

The event's hosts will be Juleanna and Jeffrey Weiss. Juleanna Weiss is a former press secretary to the vice president and a well-known Washington hostess. Her husband is a GOP lobbyist.

The Steele campaign referred questions to the White House, and a spokeswoman declined to comment.

President Bush brought in $500,000 for Steele in November at a Baltimore fundraiser. Presidential political adviser Karl Rove has also appeared at an event for Steele.

Jennifer Skalka

House passes Voter Bill of Rights

The House of Delegates passed a bill yesterday that would establish electronic poll books intended to prevent people from voting more than once, as well as require the creation of polling places on large college campuses for students and faculty.

The Voter Bill of Rights, as it is called, was approved 96-43, largely along party lines and despite objections from Republicans who said the measure afforded college students conveniences that are not available to members of the military.

The Senate is considering a similar proposal.

To qualify for a separate polling place, a college or university would have to have at least 500 students, faculty or staff registered to vote in the same precinct in which the school is located.

Capital News Service

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