The upcoming week is a crucial one for Carroll state legislators campaigning for more stringent environmental protections.
Hearings will take place beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the HouseEnvironmental Matters Committee on bills introduced by Carroll delegates concerning sewage sludge storage, the impacts of mining and recycling.
Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, will testify Wednesday on his bill that would require individuals to obtain a permit from the Department of the Environment before installing, alteringor expanding a recycling facility. The bill is in response to the stump dump fire that's still burning in Baltimore County. The permit would place conditions on the storage of recyclable materials and disposal of residues.
On Thursday, Delegates Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, and Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, renew what has become anannual battle with the mining industry to make quarry companies liable for damages to water supplies and property within a designated "zone of responsibility."
Also on Thursday, Elliott will lobby for support of a bill he has introduced that would tighten the sludge storage approval process. The bill would mandate that the application include a statement saying that the facility meets all zoning and land use requirements of the county in which it is to be located.
APPEALS BILL KILLED
ANNAPOLIS -- The House Judiciary Committee killed a billsponsored by Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, that would have altered the appeals process for those convicted of crimes.
The committee voted, 17-1, against the bill, which Dixon said was aimed at shortening the appeals process for Maryland inmates sentenced to death.However, the bill would have applied more broadly to all convicts petitioning courts to set aside a sentence on technical constitutional and legal grounds, once normal appeals up through the U.S. Supreme Court were exhausted.
Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, was the only committee member to vote for the bill.
The legislation would have eliminated an automatic right to free counsel for convicts filing their first "post-conviction" petition after going through the normal appeals process. Instead, courts would have decided whether to appoint counsel, based on the validity of the complaint.
Lawyers from the state Office of the Public Defender and Legal Aid Bureau Inc.opposed the bill, saying it would violate basic rights guaranteed toprisoners.
Dixon, who argued that taxpayers' money often is wasted on frivolous appeals by death row inmates, said he introduced the bill to spur public debate on the issue.
DRUG MONEY NOT TARGETED
ANNAPOLIS -- The House Judiciary Committee killed for the second straight year a bill sponsored by Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, that would have targeted assets seized under state drug laws toward treatment programs and law enforcement.
Legislators showed once again that they do not support targeting general revenues toward specific purposes, especially at a time when the state is being forced to cut programs to balance the budget. The committee voted 15-4 against the proposal.
The Maryland State Police reported that $450,000 was placed in the state's general fund from the seizure of drug money andproperty acquired through drug trafficking in fiscal 1990.
CARNIVAL GROUNDS EXCLUDED
ANNAPOLIS -- A bill introduced by a Prince George's County delegate that would have extended drug-free zones to community recreation centers was killed by the House Judiciary Committee.
A representative from the Carroll Volunteer Firemen's Association had requested that the bill be amended to include county fire carnivalgrounds, but the suggestion was not included.
ABORTION BILL CO-SPONSORED
ANNAPOLIS -- Three Carroll delegates are co-sponsors of a bill originally suggested by anti-abortion leaders in the House as an amendment to an abortion-rights bill that was passed and signed into law earlier in the session.
Delegates Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, and Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, are three of 46 House members named as co-sponsors of the bill, which would provide legal protection for health care professionals whochoose not to refer patients for abortions based on religious convictions.
Known as the "conscience clause," the amendment was defeated on the House floor.
DIOXIN BILL KILLED
ANNAPOLIS -- The House Environmental Matters Committee voted 19-3 to kill a bill introduced byDelegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, that would have raised the state's water quality standard for the toxic chemical dioxin by nearly 100 times to the federally recommended level.
Committee members cited a pending court case filed by an environmental coalition, charging that the Environmental Protection Agency allowed Maryland to set a standard that is too lax for the highly carcinogenic substance, as one reason for defeating the bill. The bill also ran into problems because the federal standard for dioxin is so low that it isimmeasurable, causing committee members to question the need for change.
TAX RETURNS DIFFER
ANNAPOLIS -- A report from the Department of Fiscal Services says Carroll would receive about $2.7 million lessin aid than estimated by the Maryland Commission on State Taxes andTax Structure if its comprehensive tax reforms were enacted.