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Assembly Session Marked by Partisan Discord

Prime among the new restrictions is a measure prohibiting teen drivers from carrying teenage passengers, except family members, during the first five months of the 18-month provisional license.

The General Assembly also passed a measure barring teen drivers with a provisional license from using a cell phone, except in an emergency.

Dumping Confetti on Senate President
Dumping Confetti on Senate President
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) is caught in a shower of confetti as the Maryland General Assembly session ends midnight April 12. Miller pushed an agenda designed to maintain the Democratic majority. (James M Thresher - The Washington Post)

Key Bills: What Passed
_____Maryland Government_____
Strong Showing For School Board Bill (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Frederick Requests Mostly Unheeded (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
More for Schools, But Less for Roads (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Duncan's Faith May Not Follow Church (The Washington Post, Apr 14, 2005)
Full Report

Lawmakers approved measures increasing the amount of driving practice required for young drivers but did not reach agreement on an Ehrlich-sponsored measure to strengthen penalties for teens convicted of drunken driving.

• Witness intimidation: Some types of out-of-court witness statements will be permitted under a controversial measure approved by the General Assembly. A key piece of Ehrlich's legislative agenda, the legislation aims to cut down on threats to witnesses in criminal trials.

The legislature passed a compromise version of the bill that allows into court a narrower spectrum of witness statements than what Ehrlich's original legislation proposed.

• Juvenile justice: Evidence of continued abuse and neglect in the state's juvenile detention facilities helped move forward several bills aimed at changing the way the state handles young offenders. The General Assembly passed a measure authored by Del. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) that would transfer the independent monitor who oversees the juvenile detention facilities to the office of Maryland's attorney general.

The independent monitor has been under the governor's authority. Ehrlich has said he does not like the idea of the transfer.

Lawmakers approved another Zirkin measure to create a legislative oversight committee for the state's Department of Juvenile Services, a measure Democrats said is necessary to make sure the agency complies with recommendations of the independent monitor. Ehrlich and GOP lawmakers strenuously objected to the bill, saying it strips the governor of authority for partisan purposes.

• Vehicle theft: Owners of stolen cars will be able to submit written testimony in lieu of appearing in court, as long as they appear once after their car is stolen. Lawmakers approved another measure allowing police to use wiretaps in auto theft investigations. Both laws were aimed at cutting auto theft in Prince George's County, which has seen a sharp rise over the past three years.

Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D) called the bills "a step in the right direction" but said the owner-affidavit law is "a lot less helpful than we had originally sought." Ivey and others had pushed for a bill that would allow car owners to forgo appearing in court.

• Intercounty connector: Lawmakers approved a funding package for the planned highway linking Montgomery and Prince George's counties outside the Capital Beltway. Ehrlich has pushed hard for construction of the road to begin, over the objections of environmentalists and others who say the road would harm ecologically sensitive areas and might not reduce traffic tie-ups.

• BWI: One of Maryland's prime economic engines is likely to get a new name this year -- or, more precisely, an addition to its old name. Under legislation approved Monday, the name of Baltimore native Thurgood Marshall will be tacked on to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. To take effect, the measure must be approved by the state's three-member Board of Public Works. Sponsors said they are confident they have enough votes on the panel to change the airport's name.

The new name -- Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport -- was a compromise with the legislation originally proposed, which would have put the name of the first African American Supreme Court justice at the front of the airport's name.

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