Legislative Digest

April 02, 2008

Senate OKs bill on adult literacy

The Senate passed yesterday a bill proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to transfer adult literacy and prison education programs from the state Department of Education to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Several lawmakers said yesterday they were initially wary of the idea but were won over by appeals from DLLR Secretary Thomas E. Perez, who argued that his department could better prepare adults and ex-offenders for the work force.

But Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, decried the move as mere "power-shifting" that could threaten nonprofits that run adult literacy programs. "They're scared to death" of the bill, Della said.

The vote was 31-15.

Gadi Dechter

Committee kills bill on trans fat

A state Senate committee voted yesterday to kill legislation that would create a task force to study statewide regulation of trans fat, which is common in deep-fried foods and blamed for contributing to obesity.

Some lawmakers said the General Assembly creates too many task forces and that information on government bans of trans fat in food sold to consumers could be gleaned from localities that have enacted such restrictions, including Baltimore City and Montgomery County. The House of Delegates had approved the trans-fat task force.

"I've been eating junk food all of my life, and I'm still healthy," said Sen. John C. Astle, 65, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Laura Smitherman

Plan for database on spending revived

A bill to create a searchable online database for almost all state spending that had been declared dead was resurrected over the weekend and passed unanimously in a Senate committee yesterday, giving it strong chances to pass in the General Assembly this year.

The legislation, which passed the House of Delegates, was sponsored by a coalition of some of the state's most conservative and liberal lawmakers, as well as progressive groups and anti-tax associations.

"I thought it would be a real shame if it didn't make it out of committee," said Ryan O'Donnell, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a watchdog group that backed the bill.

If the legislation becomes law, Marylanders will be able to find out exactly how much the state spends on construction projects or gives to specific contractors or programs like those for Chesapeake Bay restoration.

The idea is modeled after a new federal government Web site that went live in December, www.usa spending.gov.

Bradley Olson

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