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Auto insurance relief bill dies in House


ANNAPOLIS -- Drivers in Baltimore and other urban areas around Maryland will have to wait for relief from high auto insurance rates because a House committee killed a package of bills yesterday that would have prohibited insurers from charging insurance rates according to where a driver lives.

A Senate committee took a similar action last week on bills that would have benefited drivers in high-risk, heavily populated areas such as Baltimore by prohibiting the practice of "territorial rating."

Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who said she has no hopes for relief from the legislature, leads a private group whose legal challenge to territorial rating will be heard in Baltimore City Circuit Court tomorrow morning.

The House Economic Matters Committee yesterday also:

* Passed a package of bills sent from the Senate that would expand loan programs under the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority, an agency of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development.

* Killed a bill to require building owners to achieve "potty parity." Under the bill, the number of toilets in women's restrooms could not be less than the combined number of toilets and urinals in the men's rooms.

* Killed a bill to extend the public-sector protections for "whistle-blowers" to private-sector companies that do a significant amount of business with the state.

* Sent to summer study a bill to prohibit oil companies from price-gouging during times of market distress.

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