State Digest

STATE DIGEST

May 17, 2006

Bill would extend workers' visa plan

Washington -- Immigration legislation being considered by the U.S. Senate now includes a key provision that would extend a visa program for seasonal foreign workers that Maryland's seafood packers rely on for a steady labor supply.

Packers in Maryland, and seasonal businesses around the country, have come to depend on the visa program, known as H2B. But in recent years, the annual cap of 66,000 workers has been reached earlier and earlier.

Last year - with businesses accustomed to hiring workers from Latin America facing a critical labor shortage - Congress agreed to allow seasonal workers who had come to the United States in one of the previous three years to return for the 2005 and 2006 seasons, regardless of whether the cap has been reached. Visas for this year's crab season have been arranged, but the exemption passed last spring expires at the end of September.

The measure that has been added to the Senate bill, championed by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, would extend the expanded program through the 2009 season. Unlike the rest of the legislation, which has split Republicans in the House and Senate, the H2B provision enjoys broad support in both houses.

Mikulski said yesterday that she is "cautiously optimistic" that the immigration bill will pass the Senate - and that the H2B provision will clear the House as well and become law, even if negotiations on the broader bill break down.

Gwyneth K. Shaw

Washington

Wuerl named new archbishop

Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl will replace Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as archbishop of Washington, one of the most visible leadership positions in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican said yesterday.

McCarrick, a leading moderate voice in the church, submitted his resignation in July when he turned 75, as required of all bishops. In a brief statement, the Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the resignation and named Wuerl to replace him.

"To follow in such large footprints requires an enormous amount of courage and support," Wuerl said at a news conference at Washington's Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville. "While I am greatly aware that I have a lot to learn about this archdiocesan church, I have strong ties to this community."

Wuerl, 65, will be installed as the archdiocese's sixth bishop June 22.

Associated Press

Anne Arundel

4 announce political campaigns

Four northern Anne Arundel County Democrats formally announced their campaigns for the State House yesterday.

Incumbent Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. and Dels. Mary Ann Love and Theodore J. Sophocleus will run as a team in District 32 with County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, who hopes to unseat Republican Del. Terry R. Gilleland Jr.

County Republican leaders appointed Gilleland to his position in 2003 to fill a vacancy.

The 32nd District extends from Jessup and Linthicum to Severn and also includes part of Odenton.

Phillip McGowan

Naval Academy

2004 graduate dies in Iraq

A 2004 Naval Academy graduate was killed Thursday in a tank accident 50 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq, according to the Defense Department.

2nd Lt. Michael L. LiCalzi of Garden City, N.Y., was killed along with three other Marines when the vehicle rolled off a bridge and plunged into a canal, according to the Associated Press.

A boxer in the brigade championships who made the dean's list at least twice, according to published accounts, LiCalzi, 24, was assigned to the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Bradley Olson

Bill signing

Rebates to go toward AIDS drugs

Rebates from pharmaceutical companies paid when the state buys medication to treat HIV and AIDS patients must be spent on helping those patients get their drugs under a bill signed yesterday by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The General Assembly unanimously passed a bill this year requiring that the rebate money be spent on AIDS drugs. Ehrlich had proposed shifting the rebate money - $11.3 million in the budget year that begins June 1 - to other government spending. Yesterday, during the last of five scheduled bill-signing ceremonies this year, Ehrlich put his signature on the new law.

Also yesterday, the governor signed a bill to increase amounts for Educational Excellence Awards granted to community college students. When the increases are fully phased in, the average award would be approximately $1,540 per student, the governor's office said.

Among the 81 bills signed by the governor yesterday were a measure requiring assisted-living facilities to have emergency power generators on hand and a measure requiring that half of the state-owned vehicles that run on diesel fuel use a blend that contains at least 5 percent ethanol by 2008.

David Nitkin

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