Legislative Digest


House approves arrest power for comptroller's office

The House of Delegates passed a measure yesterday that would expand the law enforcement powers of the state comptroller's office to allow agents to arrest anyone for not paying taxes.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved the legislation, 98-36, after a heated debate. Some lawmakers opposed the bill because they said it will give the comptroller overly broad and unwarranted power, including the authority to arrest someone for not paying income taxes.

The bill goes to the Senate for consideration. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said senators will carefully scrutinize the measure. Similar legislation passed both chambers last year and was vetoed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Top agencies reaffirm Md.'s AAA bond status

The nation's three major bond-rating agencies reaffirmed Maryland's AAA status yesterday, in advance of $500 million in bond sales scheduled for Wednesday.

The top rating means Maryland can borrow money at low interest rates. The state also plans to refinance $92 million of bonds in next week's sale, said state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp. "We are very pleased that all three rating agencies recognized that Maryland has a strong economy and a prudent fiscal management system," she said.

Kopp said the next evaluation of the state's finances in July will be more critical, because Wall Street analysts will be reviewing the General Assembly's work on the budget.

House legislation targets theft at gasoline pump

Stealing gasoline at the pump could result in the suspension of a motorist's driver's license under legislation approved yesterday by the House.

Delegates voted 85-48 in favor of the measure, which some lawmakers said would serve as a deterrent to gasoline theft at a time of rising fuel prices. Although gas stations in urban areas generally require motorists to pay before they pump, businesses on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland permit drivers to pay after filling their gas tanks -- making the stations targets for theft, delegates said.

The bill moves to the Senate for consideration. It is expected to have strong support among senators.

Delegates give go-ahead to Md.-Va. ferry service

The House of Delegates approved a measure yesterday that would allow ferry service to operate on the Eastern Shore from Maryland to Virginia.

Delegates unanimously authorized Somerset County commissioners to award one or more franchises to ferry companies that would provide service between Somerset and Reedville, Va. The trips across the Chesapeake Bay are expected to help bolster tourism in the area. A similar measure is in the Senate.

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