State Digest

STATE DIGEST

May 02, 2006

Giant-owned stations can sell discount gas

Stations in Hagerstown and Cumberland owned by Giant Food Stores LLC can continue to sell gasoline at a discount of 10 cents per gallon to customers who make grocery purchases, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer announced yesterday.

Schaefer said the promotions do not violate a state law that prohibits the sale of vehicle fuel at below-wholesale cost.

A competing gasoline station raised a complaint last week against Martin's Food Market in Hagerstown, saying that a discount program could be a violation of state law, said Michael Golden, a spokesman for the comptroller. The program offered gasoline credits based on grocery purchases of at least $100.

The comptroller's office determined that because the grocery credits were the equivalent of cash, customers are "in essence paying the full price" for fuel, Golden said.

Some lawmakers tried this year to repeal a state law banning below-cost gas sales, but service station owners and petroleum companies said the prohibition was needed as protection against chains such as WaWa and Sheetz and against wholesale clubs such as Costco, which have used low-cost gasoline as an enticement to draw shoppers to their stores.

David Nitkin

Annapolis

`Upskirting' bill set to be signed

A state delegate said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. plans to sign into law today a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to surreptitiously photograph or record images of an individual's clothed or naked buttocks, genital area or breasts, outlawing phenomena known as "upskirting" and "downblousing."

Del. Neil F. Quinter, a Howard County Democrat, said his office was notified yesterday that the governor plans to sign House Bill 60 at a ceremony this morning at which dozens of other pieces of legislation adopted by the General Assembly last month also are expected to be signed.

"With the recent advent of miniature electronic technology, coupled with the new ready availability of cell phone cameras, upskirting incidents are occurring much more frequently," Quinter said. "Now Maryland's law can catch up with the technology."

Quinter's bill makes upskirting a misdemeanor subject to a maximum $2,500 fine and 18 months in jail.

Supporters also say the governor intends to sign Senate Bill 897, legislation that allows the state to ban companies from participating in state contracts if they discriminate against workers.

David Nitkin

Maryland

Cigarette-tax increase supported

The Maryland Citizens Health Initiative released poll data yesterday suggesting that most voters would support a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax to reduce teen smoking and expand health care access.

The poll, conducted for the advocacy group by OpinionWorks of Annapolis, found that 66 percent of likely voters supported the idea while 27 percent opposed it. The survey of 1,214 likely Maryland general election voters was conducted from March 31 to April 5 and has a margin of error of 2.8 percent, the health initiative said.

"This poll shows that candidates who support raising the tobacco tax to reduce teen smoking and expand health care will have a big advantage over candidates who oppose this proposal," said Vincent DeMarco, president of the initiative, which successfully backed a bill last year to require Wal-Mart to pay more for employee health care.

Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman Audra Miller said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has opposed billions in tax increases - including a cigarette tax increase - and said she believes voters "without question" prefer his approach.

"The liberals sure do love their tax increases," she said.

Andrew A. Green

Cecil County

13 wells test for higher radiation

Cecil County health officials say that more than half the wells tested over the last month near Chesapeake City tested positive for increased alpha-radiation levels.

Chuck Smyser, environmental health director for the Cecil County Health Department, said 13 of the 23 private wells tested have shown signs of the low-level radiation, with none of the wells concentrated in one particular area.

"At this point, we need to keep doing the tests and expand our testing area," he told the Cecil Whig.

In March, county officials were told by the Maryland Department of the Environment that water provided by the county's Harbour View water system contained an elevated alpha-radiation level.

According to the county Department of Public Works, the increase is caused by a natural radioactive decay of minerals found in the wells.

County health officials said the increase is not enough to pose significant risks, and that residents can continue using and drinking the water.

They said an individual would need to drink about 2 liters of the water per day for 50 years to be at an elevated risk of cancer. And even then, the probability of contracting the disease would be one of 10,000 people.

Associated Press

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