Legislative Digest

LEGISLATIVE DIGEST

April 05, 2008

Lawmakers finally agree on budget funding, cuts

Lawmakers in the House and Senate wrapped up their work on the Maryland's $31.2 billion budget yesterday, finally coming to agreement on some of the belt-tightening measures both chambers employed in the face of shrinking tax revenues and continued fiscal challenges.

All told, they cut more than $300 million from Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget plan. They have shaved more than $1 billion from planned state spending since the 2007 legislative session. They voted to delay funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, the purchase of MedEvac helicopters and payments toward the health care benefits of future state retirees.

The two chambers also came to an accord over the two issues that had most divided them - how much to put toward stem cell research grants and how much to provide for pay increases for providers of care for people with disabilities. In the end, they agreed to $19 million for the stem cell grants, with an additional $1 million that could come depending on tax collections, and a 3 percent pay raise for community health providers.

Bradley Olson

Domestic-partner bill heads to O'Malley for signature

Legislation that would grant unmarried couples who declare themselves domestic partners the right to make medical and other decisions for one another is headed to Gov. Martin O'Malley for his signature.

The House of Delegates voted, 88-46, to approve the bill, which the Senate passed last month. The bill, sought by gay rights activists, would grant certain rights, such as hospital visitation and the ability to make funeral arrangements, to gay or straight couples. It had drawn opposition from some Republicans, who said it was unnecessary.

The House also passed, on an 86-to-47 vote, a Senate-approved bill that would exempt domestic partners from recordation and transfer taxes when adding one another to home property deeds.

Laura Smitherman

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