Bill to curb regulators fails to pass the House


The House of Delegates yesterday narrowly defeated a bill aimed at curbing the regulatory powers of state bureaucrats.

On a 68-65 vote, the delegates rejected a measure that would have made it harder for the state to adopt rules stricter than those of the federal government.

Opponents said House Bill 401 could have affected everything from vehicle-emission inspections to health-care regulations.

House Majority Leader John A. Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat, described the bill as a "lawyer's dream," predicting that its vague language would be used to tie up every new rule proposed.

Del. Gerald J. Curran, chairman of the Commerce and Government Matters Committee which brought the bill to the floor, said it simply would have required regulators to explain why the state needed stricter rules.

The House approved another measure, House Bill 88, aimed at curbing regulatory powers. The bill, approved 89-35, would allow legislators to keep new rules from going into effect until the full General Assembly has a chance to review them.

That measure now moves to the Senate.

Public financing OK'd for governor's race

The state Senate gave its unanimous approval yesterday tpublic financing for the 1998 gubernatorial campaigns.

Lawmakers appeared to have been moved by Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's showing in last fall's election, Maryland's first experiment in public financing. Mrs. Sauerbrey was nearly elected governor in heavily Democratic Maryland, in part because she opted to use more than $1 million in taxpayers' money to finance her campaign.

Mrs. Sauerbrey has said her decision to accept the public money gave her long-shot candidacy instant credibility in the Republican primary and made her competitive in the general election.

Under Senate Bill 553, sponsored by the Senate majority and minority leaders, participation would be totally voluntary. Gubernatorial candidates would not have to accept public money and accompanying restrictions. Taxpayers also have the right to choose, when filling out their income tax return, whether to contribute up to $500 to the public campaign fund.

0$ The bill now moves to the House.

Committee approves scholarship bill

The Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committeyesterday unanimously approved a bill that would modify Maryland's legislative scholarship program.

Under Senate Bill 855, the 47 senators would have two options for handling the $125,000 in scholarship money each is given yearly.

Senators could either turn the money over to the state to hand out based strictly on financial need or ask a nine-member committee in each legislative district to make the awards. The committees could consider financial need, grades, leadership ability and other factors,

In either case, the scholarships would have to go to students living in the senator's district.

While five members of each committee would be appointed by local school boards or community college trustees, senators could appoint the other four. Common Cause of Maryland, which has waged a long campaign against the scholarship program, has argued that senators should not be involved at all in the selection of the committees.

Glendening supports curbs on smoke ban

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday he would supporexempting all bars and racetracks from the state's ban on smoking in workplaces. He previously had proposed exempting only small bars. His concessions, however, are not as broad as the legislature would like.

A bill that would exempt bars, hotels and businesses with liquor licenses -- including restaurants, concert halls, auditoriums, theaters and clubs -- is poised for final passage by the legislature on Monday or Tuesday. The measure has enough supporters to override an expected gubernatorial veto.

The bill would not affect other provisions of the smoking ban, expected to begin March 27.

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