The Maryland Senate voted this morning to raise the minimum liability limits for vehicle owners' auto insurance for the first time in 38 years. The final vote was 27-20, sending the bill to Gov. Martin O'Malley for his signature.
The bill was approved after a stiff fight led by the Senate's Republicans, joined by a handful of Democrats.
The measure pitted the state's trial lawyers, and some of their clients, against insurance companies and advocates for the poor -- a point repeatedly made by GOP senators.
"This is the trial lawyers versus low-income poor people," said Sen. Allan Kittleman of Howard County, the Republican leader.
But Sen. Rob Garagiola, the floor leader for the legislation, noted that the limits had been unchanged for 38 years.
"We should have addressed this situation 10-15 years ago and increased it to ($25,000) and ($50,000)," the Montgomery County Democrat said.
The bill is expected to affect about 200,000 Marylanders who carry the minimum amount of auto insurance. Most of the roughly 2 million policy holders who carry more comprehensive coverage are unlikely to be affected.