Capital Notebook

Capital Notebook

March 28, 2006

Homeless hate-crime bill dies in Senate

A bill that would classify crimes against homeless people as hate crimes died yesterday in a close Senate vote.

Senators voted 23-22 against the bill. Republican Sens. John J. Hafer of Western Maryland and David Brinkley of Frederick were absent.

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.

"These people are vulnerable and they need our protection," Mooney said.

But opponents say the bill would not truly address the problem of homelessness.

"This bill does not do one iota in terms of helping end this problem," said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat. "This Assembly needs to take a more comprehensive look at it."

Mooney said in a statement that he would be asking for another vote on the issue today so the absent senators could record their decisions. He said he hoped the outcome would be different.

Jill Rosen

Planning office to stay in city

The state Department of Planning will remain in Baltimore, at least for now, as lawmakers removed from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s budget $3 million to move the agency to Prince George's County.

A joint Senate and House of Delegates conference committee on the budget cut the money late Saturday night, said Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat who serves on the committee.

"The planned move has been delayed pending a study," Franchot said yesterday.

The governor asked for $2.75 million for the move - $1.75 million for one-time moving and office setup costs and another $1 million annually to rent space. The department pays about $10,000 a year for its offices at the state-owned State Center on West Preston Street.

Ehrlich also included in his budget $450,000 to pay "retention bonuses" of $3,000 apiece to employees who make the move.

Planning Department employees, who were nearly unanimous in opposition to the move, expressed relief yesterday. More than half of the department's 110 employees based at State Center live in Baltimore or Baltimore County.

"We survived this for now," said Rich Hall, a planner. "We're all very much relieved to hear that."

Jill Rosen

House OKs immigrant care

The governor would be forced to spend at least $3 million on health care for some legal immigrants under a bill approved by the House of Delegates yesterday.

The bill was inspired by an Ehrlich decision last year to end state health coverage for needy children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants. The bill would require the governor to devote some money to the program next fiscal year.

House members approved the bill 135-1, sending it to the Senate.

Del. Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George's County Democrat who sponsored the bill, said supporters originally wanted $8 million to be set aside for the coverage. But he said after the vote that he was happy for any amount.

"It reinforces that Maryland is immigrant-friendly," he said.

Associated Press

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