Legislators to zero in on crime, stadium proposal

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Carroll County legislators promise to be tough on crime and wary of Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke in the General Assembly session that begins tomorrow.

Legislators predict that the 1994 session will be a calm one, free of major budget cuts and controversies.

Three of the county's four delegates and one of its senators said they will introduce measures to deal with escalating crime.

Members of the Carroll delegation agreed that Mr. Cooke's plan to build a football stadium in Laurel will be a hot issue.

"It will be a political football," said Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, is adamantly against the team moving to Maryland. He said he agreed with former Baltimore Colts star Art Donovan that "the Redskins are not the same" as the city's beloved Colts.

Mr. Dixon said he would vote against the state paying to build roads or other infrastructure if the Redskins move to Laurel.

The money should be used for schools and prisons, said Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said he will not form an opinion on the issue until he knows how much the infrastructure for a Laurel stadium would cost.

Mr. Smelser, chairman of the capital budget subcommittee of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said he does not expect any deep cuts in programs, because the state's economy appears to be improving.

"I don't look for any insurmountable problems as far as finances are concerned," he said.

Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, and Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, said they expect legislators to continue talking about the problem of unfunded mandates -- laws the state enforces on counties and towns, but does not finance.

In the end, this year's legislative session will be an engaging one, Mr. Matthews predicted.

"It's going to be a busy one -- it's Gov. [William Donald] Schaefer's last hurrah," he said.

The following are short descriptions of measures that Carroll legislators said they will introduce or are considering:

SENATE

Sen. Larry E. Haines

* Spanking -- Change state law to say that the reasonable use of corporal punishment by a parent or grandparent is not considered child abuse. Residents have said they were accused of child abuse for spanking their children as a means of disciplining them, Mr. Haines said.

The senator withdrew such a bill last year at the request of Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil County. Mr. Haines said he will seek co-sponsors before reintroducing the bill.

* Religion -- Allow teachers to read or post historical writings or documents that mention religion or God, such as the national anthem, the Declaration of Independence and the pledge of allegiance, and prohibit removing religious references from textbooks.

The House Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee killed that bill early in the session last year. Mr. Haines said he will meet with teachers and others who support the bill next week before deciding whether to reintroduce it.

* Marijuana -- State law says a person cannot be charged with a felony for smuggling marijuana into Maryland unless it is 100 pounds or more. Mr. Haines wants to reduce that amount to 10 pounds.

* Minors and drugs -- Make it a felony for an adult to bring a minor into Maryland to sell drugs. The bill passed the Senate last year, but was defeated by a House committee.

* Drive-by shootings -- Allow a judge or jury to impose the death penalty on a gunman convicted of killing an innocent bystander in a drug-related case. The Senate passed the bill last year.

* Capital gains -- Reduce the tax on capital gains from 100 percent to 50 percent on investments held six months or longer.

For example, now if a resident buys a property for $50,000 and sells it five years later for $75,000, the capital gains tax would be calculated on $25,000. Mr. Haines proposes taxing 50 percent of the profit, or $12,500.

* Home improvement -- To have the state Home Improvement Commission regulate certain work on condominiums. A Hampstead woman requested the legislation after she discovered that the commission could not help her when a contractor did not finish work for which she had paid him, Mr. Haines said.

* Child-abuse reporting -- Require state social service employees to report a person who has made two or more false reports of child abuse. The bill, aimed at reducing false complaints, was voted down in the Judicial Proceedings Committee last year.

* Punitive damages -- Limit punitive damages in civil lawsuits to ,, twice the amount of compensatory damages, to reduce the cost health care, insurance and other services.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser

Mr. Smelser spends most of his time on budget issues and does not usually introduce many bills. He expects to introduce one bill this year, but said yesterday he could not reveal its content because it hasn't been written. He said he hopes to have it ready next week.

HOUSE

Del. Richard N. Dixon

* Parole -- Abolish the state parole board, to keep criminals in jail. He introduced the bill last year, and it was killed in committee.

* Time off -- No longer allow criminals to get time off jail sentences for good behavior.

* Violent crimes -- Make a life sentence mandatory for anyone who is convicted of three violent crimes. He said he will co-sponsor the bill with Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore County.

* Judges -- Require the election of district, circuit and appellate judges so they are more accountable to voters. He introduced the bill last year. It was killed in committee.

* Insurance settlements -- Require insurance companies to send a plaintiff in a winning lawsuit a copy of the settlement so that the plaintiff's attorney cannot cheat him. The bill passed the House last year, but was killed in the Senate.

Mr. Dixon said he is examining whether residents of Parr's Ridge condominiums in Westminster are due tax refunds because they pay city taxes but also pay private companies for trash collection, snow removal and street lighting. The city does not pay for those services at apartment buildings with more than three units.

Parr's Ridge is the city's first condominium project and will have 168 units upon completion. Residents say they spend $11,200 a year on the three services.

Del. Donald B. Elliott

* Victim notification -- Require notification of victims of child abuse or violent crimes when their attackers are to be released from prison.

* Taping therapy -- Require audio or videotape recordings of therapy sessions for alleged victims of child abuse so a judge or jury can view or listen to them.

* State registry -- Automatically purge suspected child abusers' names from a state registry after three years if the person has not been convicted. Now, a person may request removal of his or her name after five years, he said.

* Drug pricing -- Eliminate price discrimination by pharmaceutical companies.

Mr. Elliott, who operates Union Bridge Pharmacy with his wife, Jeanne, said drug companies charge hospitals, health maintenance organizations and mail-order houses 30 percent to 40 percent less than retail pharmacies.

He introduced the bill last year, and House leaders asked for further study. They sponsored a briefing on the issue in November and heard information from a dozen people, he said.

* Vehicle emissions -- Require all Maryland residents to pay an emissions control fee. Now, emissions tests are required only in the state's eight metropolitan counties, including Carroll. All residents should share in the cost of cleaning the state's air, he said.

The House Environmental Matters Committee killed this bill last year. Mr. Elliott said he expects the same this year because Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., who likely will be elected House speaker, is from Allegany County, where there is no emissions inspection or fee.

* Smoking -- Designate certain areas in public places for smoking. Smokers should be accommodated in restaurants that seat more than 50 people, retail stores that employ more than seven full-time people and certain other public places, he said.

* Weapons -- Allow certain weapons on school property for historical re-enactments or other educational purposes.

* Shoplifting -- Make a person liable for damages on rental property, such as videotapes, that is not returned.

Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte

* Cloning -- Prohibit cloning of human beings. He said he wrote the bill after reading that cloning is being done at a university. He said he doesn't know if cloning of human beings is done in Maryland.

* Hygienists -- Create a state dental hygiene board to oversee licensed hygienists. Currently, hygienists are regulated by the State Board of Dental Examiners, but want a separate board, he said.

Del. Richard C. Matthews

* Parole -- Abolish the system, which Mr. Matthews said is used mainly as a way to ease prison crowding. Many prisoners who are on parole commit other crimes, and the Parole Commission ignores tough penalties enacted by the legislature and imposed by the courts, he said.

* Drunken driving -- Lower the blood-alcohol percentage for drunken driving to .08 from .10 percent. Eight other states have done so, he said.

* Comprehensive plans -- Require real estate agents to give prospective buyers government-written comprehensive plans so buyers know where new roads and other changes are planned in areas where they're house-hunting.

Mr. Matthews said he is studying whether the state could prevent people from filing civil lawsuits to receive monetary compensation for injuries when they've already received payment from an insurance company. He said he also would discuss with the Small Business Legislative Council how to help small-business owners compete with government-operated businesses in the same fields.

CARROLL DELEGATION

SEN. LARRY E. HAINES,

R-Carroll, Baltimore

Elected to Senate in 1990; member, Judicial Proceedings Committee.

8, Phone (410) 841-3683, 876-4530, 876-6564

SEN. CHARLES H. SMELSER,

D-Carroll, Frederick,

Howard In Senate since 1967; House, 1955-1963; member, Budget and Taxation Committee; chairman, Capital Budget Subcommittee.

$ Phone (410) 841-3704

DEL. RICHARD N. DIXON,

D-Carroll

In House since 1983; member, Appropriations Committee; co-chairman, Joint Committee on Budget and Audit, Joint Committee on Pensions.

.' Phone (410) 841-3371, 848-6945

DEL. DONALD B. ELLIOTT,

R-Carroll, Howard

In House since 1987; member, Environmental Matters Committee.

.' Phone (410) 841-3371, 848-5373

DEL. LAWRENCE A. LAMOTTE,

D-Carroll, Baltimore

In House since 1983; chairman, Subcommittee on Health and Environment; member, Environmental Matters Committee.

$ Phone (410) 841-3109

DEL. RICHARD C. MATTHEWS,

R-Carroll

In House since 1967; chairman, county delegation; member, Judiciary Committee

9- Phone (301) 841-3371, 239-3400, 239-7600.

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