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The House Environmental Matters Committee passed, 18-5, a bill sponsored by Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, intended to save money by requiring the state to recover medical equipment issued to recipients.

The committee amended the bill to make it emergency legislation, which means it would take effect immediately if it is passedby both chambers and signed by the governor. The House approved the amendment yesterday. An emergency bill needs a three-fifths majority vote to pass.

Under Elliott's proposal, durable equipment, such as wheelchairs,walkers and crutches, would be recovered from Maryland Medical Assistance Program recipients when no longer needed, and redistributed to other low-income clients. Thus, the state would be required to purchase less new equipment each year.

If the equipment is not in suitable condition to be re-issued to another recipient, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene can give the equipment to an organization that will repair it or provide it to needy persons for free.

No savings estimates have been made because of complications in determiningthe effectiveness of such a program and the durability of equipment.But Elliott estimates that it could save as much as $1 million annually. The program has about a $2.2 million budget.



ANNAPOLIS -- Animal control officials and afield investigator for the Humane Society of the United States testified yesterday in support of a bill sponsored by Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, that would make it a misdemeanor to be a spectator at cockfighting and dogfighting events.

Currently, only thosewho own the animals or are engaged in conducting the illegal fights can be charged with misdemeanors. The events featuring battles to thedeath involve illegal gambling.

The bill would apply statewide.

Cockfighting events have been reported all across the state, but current statute makes it difficult for law enforcement officials to make arrests, said Nicky Ratliff, president of Professional Animal Workers of Maryland Inc. Ratliff, also the director of the Carroll Humane Society, said her agency has received reports of cockfights at several Carroll locations.

The events "breed less than contempt for lifeand insensitivity to pain and suffering," she said. "We have enough of that already."

Stephen Dickstein, field investigator for HSUS, listed four reasons why Elliott's bill should be passed:

* To helpreduce money from admission and wagering by making participants morereluctant to attend, thus diminishing the appeal of the events;

*To reduce some of the other problems associated with the events, such as possession of weapons, alcohol and drug abuse, drug dealing, prostitution and violence.

* To enhance law enforcement efforts.

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