Legislative digest

The Baltimore Sun

House votes for study of death penalty

The House of Delegates voted 89-48 to establish a 19-member commission to study the death penalty in Maryland, defeating three amendments proposed by conservative lawmakers seeking to broaden the scope of the examination or to limit Gov. Martin O'Malley's influence over the committee.

Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House minority leader from Southern Maryland, sought to give the General Assembly the power to appoint the commission's two co-chairs and to ensure that those who served on it didn't work for an advocacy group.

Both amendments were defeated soundly as supporters of the measure said the guidelines for the study were sufficient to ensure an unbiased look at capital punishment. Death penalty opponents had hoped that Maryland would follow New Jersey this year in repealing the death penalty, but when lawmakers met with gridlock once again, many coalesced around the push to study. New Jersey's decision last year followed recommendations developed by a task force.

Bradley Olson and Timothy D. Wheeler

Panel to study immigration OK'd

The House of Delegates approved yesterday the creation of a commission to study the impact of immigrants in Maryland, a measure that won the support of lawmakers in a year of sharp rhetoric surrounding how the state should handle its population of illegal immigrants.

Of the 32 bills filed this year dealing with immigration - most of which sought to cut off benefits to those who cannot prove they legally reside in the United States - the study commission may be the only step lawmakers can agree on.

Del. Pat McDonough, a Baltimore and Harford County Republican whose proposals about illegal immigration were defeated this year, decried the commission, calling it "a preordained ruse designed to be able to qualify and justify legislation which this house continues to pass to benefit illegal aliens."

The bill passed 119-19. In the Senate, a committee has yet to forward a companion measure to the full chamber.

Bradley Olson

Bill on homeowners insurance advances

The House of Delegates has approved a bill aimed at protecting homeowners in coastal areas where some insurers have limited their business.

The chamber unanimously passed the bill on Saturday, sending it to the Senate. Lawmakers acted after some insurance companies, including Allstate Corp., stopped writing new homeowner policies in coastal areas, including those near the Chesapeake Bay. Those areas are considered at greater risk of hurricane damage because of the warming of the Atlantic Ocean.

The bill would require that insurers get prior approval for excluding coverage on property because it's located in a certain geographic area. The bill also would require insurers to offer a discount on policies if homeowners make improvements to mitigate storm damage, like hurricane shutters.

"The intent here is way beyond Allstate," said Del. David D. Rudolph, a Cecil County Democrat and vice chairman of the Economic Matters Committee."

Laura Smitherman

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