Senate panel OKs bill to give governor...


Senate panel OKs bill to give governor say on executive raises

Brushing aside protests from Maryland's comptroller and treasurer, a Senate committee approved legislation yesterday that would give the governor more power to grant raises to about 150 top state officials.

The bill, which has passed the House, was approved by the Finance Committee and sent to the full Senate. Under current law, such pay raises must win support from the Board of Public Works, made up of the governor, treasurer and comptroller.

Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer outvoted Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday to pass a resolution opposing the bill, which would end board review of the salaries. Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester defended the idea but apologized to Schaefer and Dixon for seeking the change without notifying them.

Assembly agrees to expand pool of circuit jury names

The General Assembly has agreed to expand the pool of names used for selecting circuit court juries by adding anyone 18 or older issued a driver's license or identification card by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

The Senate gave final approval to the bill this week and sent it to the governor for his expected signature. Similar bills have been introduced each year since 1996, but none could muster the full support of the legislature.

Circuit courts use local voting rolls to select potential jurors.

Bill approved to study courts for high-technology disputes

The Senate gave final approval yesterday to a bill setting up a task force to study having special courts to focus on business and high-technology disputes.

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., originally called for creation of business and technology divisions in Maryland's circuit courts. Taylor contended that specialized legal forums would attract new businesses to the state.

But with the state bar association divided over the need for such courts, lawmakers decided to call for a feasibility study. The 19-member task force is to be headed by the state bar group's president, with lawyers, judges and legislators among its members.

Bill on higher late fees gets final Senate approval

The Senate gave final approval yesterday to a bill authorizing Maryland businesses to charge higher late fees, sending it to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is expected to sign it.

The measure will reverse a Court of Appeals ruling curtailing late fees. The bill authorizes businesses to charge up to $5 a month or 10 percent of the overdue balance on short-term delinquencies of up to three months. For longer-running unpaid debts, businesses may charge up to 1.5 percent a month, or 18 percent a year.

The bill applies retroactively, effectively blocking at least 15 lawsuits seeking refunds of millions of dollars in allegedly excessive late fees collected by cable television, telephone and other companies.

Bill requiring state to pay court costs goes to governor

The state would have to pick up about $7 million of the cost of running Maryland's circuit courts under legislation approved by the General Assembly yesterday.

The bill goes to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who raised objections to the proposal and has not said whether he will sign it into law.

The measure would require the state, beginning in July 2001, to pay $15 daily stipends for jurors and to pay the salaries of court masters, who handle less serious civil matters. Local governments now pay those costs.

In Annapolis

Today's highlights:

Senate meets, 10 a.m., Senate chamber.

House of Delegates meets, 10 a.m., House chamber.

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