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Panel approves mandatory test of alcohol level


A bill that would make a blood-alcohol test mandatory after a vehicular accident results in "life-threatening injury" was approved yesterday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

SB-315 is designed to close a loophole in current law, which requires a test in fatal crashes only if the death occurs immediately.

With shock trauma systems and other modern medical techniques, fatally injured victims often live for days, allowing suspected drunken drivers to escape the mandatory test.

"We're encouraged," said Susan Edkins, the mother of a 12-year-old girl killed last Oct. 29 in a crash involving an alleged drunken driver. The driver was not required to take the test because the child lived for slightly more than a day.

The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.


Bill passes to allow children's statements

A bill that would expand the ability of prosecutors to use statements made by children outside the courtroom to win a child-abuse conviction was passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday.

Statements made by children under 12 to physicians, teachers and social workers are now allowed. The bill would expand the list of professionals who can testify to out-of-court statements to include school counselors, registered nurses and physicians' assistants.

The bill would also allow statements made by very young children who would not otherwise qualify as witnesses.

The measure now goes to the House of Delegates, where a similar measure was killed by the Judiciary Committee last year.

State urged to enforce '91 noise control laws

The Senate approved a bill yesterday that urges the Schaefer administration to enforce the noise control laws adopted by the General Assembly in 1991.

Maryland Department of the Environment officials said they have never been given the money to hire staff or purchase equipment to enforce the law. A properly equipped enforcement team would cost about $539,543, budget analysts estimated.

Sen. Norman R. Stone, D-Baltimore County, introduced the bill after constituents on the North Point Peninsula expressed concern about noise from Bethlehem Steel Corp. and other factories. The bill, approved by a vote of 44-2, now goes to the House of Delegates.

Panel backs 2 bills to support families

Two bills aimed at helping families hurt by divorce or domestic violence were approved yesterday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

A measure backed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer would give authorities more ammunition in the battle to collect the $343 million in court-ordered child support that has gone unpaid in Maryland. It includes a controversial proposal to prohibit deadbeat parents from driving their cars, except during work hours.

The second measure, backed by a coalition of women's groups, would make major changes in the state's domestic violence law. Among other changes, it would require police to file a report on every domestic violence case they investigate.

Advocates say that would provide better data on the extent of domestic violence in Maryland and help identify repeat abusers.

The measure was sent to the full Senate for consideration.


Bill to raise penalties for scofflaws defeated

A House panel has voted down a bill that would have increased penalties for motorists who run red lights.

The bill, which was defeated by a 15-5 vote in the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, would have raised the penalty for running a red light from a one-point offense to three points on a driver's license, allowing officials to suspend driving privileges after a fewer number of offenses.

The measure was requested by State Highway Administration officials, who said they see an increasingly cavalier attitude among drivers toward red lights.

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