State Digest

STATE DIGEST

March 22, 2006

Bill to bar protests at funerals nears vote

A statewide proposal to ban protests within 500 feet of funerals passed a second reading in the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, paving the way for a final vote in coming days.

The bill responds to an anti-gay Kansas church whose members have picketed the funerals of military service members nationwide regardless of their sexual orientation. This month, members of the church picketed outside the Westminster funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder.

The bill, introduced by Del. Mary-Dulany James of Harford County and Del. Joan Cadden of Anne Arundel County, both Democrats, would prohibit picketing at the sites of funerals and burials within an hour before or after services. The bill would also apply to posters containing hateful speech. Violators would face a maximum $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

The House of Delegates must pass the bill by Monday to send it to the state Senate for consideration.

More than 20 other states have enacted or proposed legislation to limit the rights of protesters at funerals.

The Baltimore County Council is considering similar restrictions. County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall-Towson Democrat, introduced a bill Monday that would ban protests within 300 feet of funerals. Violators would face a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

The County Council will likely discuss the bill and vote on it next month.

Laura McCandlish and Josh Mitchell

Montgomery Co.

Public's aid sought in possible arsons

Investigators asked for the public's help yesterday as they search for the person or people behind a series of suspicious fires in recent weeks.

"We had a fire [Monday] afternoon in an area in Rockville where we have had about a dozen or so fires over the last month," said Pete Piringer, a county Fire Department spokesman. "We believe one person, or a group of persons, is responsible for at least some of them."

The fires began in the middle of last month. Piringer said cars, trash and playground equipment are among the items burned. In the most recent case, a vehicle was set on fire in front of the Board of Education building. Anyone with information is asked to call Montgomery County's Arson Tip Line at 240-777-2263.

Associated Press

Cecil County: Elkton

Driver, 20, crashes car into school bus

A 20-year-old Elkton driver ran a red light and slammed into a school bus Monday, police said.

Matthew Murray was cited for failure to stop at a red light, police said. The bus driver, Teresita Dawson, 61, was treated at Union Hospital and was released. No children were on the bus when the accident occurred about 11:45 a.m.

Associated Press

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