Lawmakers driving the agenda


Democrats in the state legislature - used to acting on their own during Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s term - are not waiting for Gov. Martin O'Malley to take the lead. They're pushing to ban smoking in bars, abolish the death penalty and establish strict pollution limits for cars. pg 1b

Smart Growth at risk


A shortage of water in Carroll County's population centers is threatening to undermine the state's pioneering anti-sprawl policies by forcing new homes into undeveloped areas, a national expert on water rights said yesterday. pg 1b


Bird flu found in Britain

British authorities confirmed yesterday that an outbreak of bird flu discovered among turkeys at a poultry farm in eastern Britain was caused by the deadly A(H5N1) strain, which has killed humans in other parts of the world. pg 19a

Gaza cease-fire unraveling

Gunmen from rival Palestinian factions battled sporadically in the Gaza Strip yesterday despite a tentative cease-fire. At least nine people were wounded. pg 19a


Bush budget raises premiums


More Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay higher premiums for coverage of prescription drugs and doctors' services under President Bush's 2008 budget, to be unveiled tomorrow. pg 3a

Private contractors under fire

Without a public debate or formal policy decision, contractors have become a virtual fourth branch of government. Spending on federal contracts has soared during the Bush administration, to about $400 billion last year from $207 billion in 2000, fueled by the war in Iraq, domestic security and Hurricane Katrina. pg 7a


Sharp rise in reassessments

Baltimore homes saw some of the region's steepest increases in the recent round of property reassessments, with market value doubling in 20 percent of the homes. It's a stark change after years of lagging home values - and added ammunition for groups calling for tax relief. pg 1a


No. 2 AirTran expanding

AirTran Airways is the nation's No. 2 discount airline, and it's not complaining. The Orlando, Fla., airline has found a niche in midsize markets such as Baltimore and Atlanta by offering routes and ticket prices that others can't match. pg 1c


Irvin, 5 others elected to Hall

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite a troubled past. Also voted in were running back Thurman Thomas, offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, defensive back Roger Wehrli, tight end Charlie Sanders and guard Gene Hickerson. Inductions will be Aug. 4-5 in Canton, Ohio. pg 14D



Long-range views of slavery

At Freedom's Door: Challenging Slavery in Maryland, an exhibit organized by the Maryland Historical Society and Reginald F. Lewis Museum, explores how slavery - and black resistance to it - was decisive in shaping the state's history. pg 1e