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Dixon bill on mining killed in committeeDel....


Dixon bill on mining killed in committee

Del. Richard N. Dixon's bill to discourage mining operations from challenging the provisions of a state-issued permit in court died in the House Environmental Matters Committee Monday.

The bill would have voided any surface mining permit if a court found that state-imposed conditions challenged by a mine owner were unconstitutional or invalid, and a mining company would have risked losing its permit if it challenged restrictions on its operation.

The proposal builds on a 1991 law that Delegate Dixon sponsored that makes mining companies responsible for wells that dry up within an area of influence determined by the state Department of Natural Resources.

In response to court challenges filed by the mining industry soon after the law was enacted, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last fall that the law is constitutional.

"We will be back again," Delegate Dixon, a Westminster Democrat, said Wednesday. "Although the Court of Appeals has said it is constitutional, to get rolling on the implementation without additional court delays, we have to have that paragraph on unseverability in place."

Senate approves death penalty bill

Maryland senators passed a bill Tuesday on a 37-6 vote that would make murder during drug violations a death penalty offense.

The proposal, submitted by Sen. Larry E. Haines of Westminster, has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Senator Haines, a Republican, has said the bill, which was drafted by Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry Barnes, was designed to strengthen penalties for drive-by shooters who kill innocent victims.

Counties could collect recordation taxes

A bill that would give Maryland's counties the ability to collect their own recordation taxes, rather than allowing the Circuit Court clerk to do it, passed the state Senate Monday by a 47-0 vote.

In most counties, recordation taxes are local revenue collected by the Circuit Court clerk. The clerk takes 3 percent to 5 percent as a processing fee before giving it to the local jurisdiction.

The senators tied Sen. Larry E. Haines' proposal to a bill sponsored by Sen. John A. Pica, Jr., a Democrat from Baltimore. Senator Haines is a Westminster Republican.

Senator Pica's proposal, which also was amended by the Senate, would lower closing costs for first-time homebuyers, require jurisdictions to offer semiannual payment of property taxes and gives counties the authority to exempt purchasers from local transfer taxes.

Under the provisions passed by the Senate Monday night, if Senator Pica's bill is not passed by the House of Delegates, Senator Haines' proposal automatically dies. Both bills have been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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