House to Defer to Senate On Stem Cell Research

By John Wagner
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Leaders of the Maryland House of Delegates said yesterday that they have abandoned plans to seek compromise legislation on stem cell research funding and plan to pass a Senate version of the bill next week.

The Senate bill is less expansive than a bill passed this month by the House, which would mandate spending $25 million a year on science that President Bush has restricted on the federal level. The Senate bill would leave it to future governors to propose how much to spend on the research, which supporters say holds great promise for relieving debilitating conditions.

House leaders said they believe that the Senate bill, which barely survived a filibuster attempt this month, is the best they can hope for this session from the more socially conservative chamber.

"We support the Senate bill," said House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery). "We just wish it had money in it."

His comments came after a hearing on the Senate bill, during which its chief sponsor sought to assure delegates that funding would be provided. Sen. Paula C. Hollinger (D-Baltimore County) noted that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr . (R) has put money in next year's budget for the research and that the two Democratic candidates for governor support state funding of the science.

Del. Peter A. Hammen (D-Baltimore) said he expects the Senate bill to be approved by two House committees this week, including a health panel that he chairs. Debate on the House floor would then start Tuesday, Hammen said.

A spokesman for Ehrlich said again yesterday that the governor believes the research can be funded without the legislation, but he would not say whether Ehrlich would sign or veto the bill if it arrives on his desk.

Not So Great for Duncan

A new poll shows Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan with only a modest lead in his home county over Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in the Democratic primary for governor.

The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research and reported yesterday on WTOP radio, shows Duncan leading O'Malley 41 percent to 35 percent, with 24 percent undecided. The survey of 500 registered Democrats in Montgomery was conducted from March 9 to 14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Most analysts agree that Duncan will have to dominate Montgomery to win the September primary over O'Malley, who is far better known in the expansive Baltimore media market.

But Duncan's campaign quickly dismissed the numbers, because the poll was commissioned by opponents of the intercounty connector -- some of whom also oppose the county executive's campaign.

The poll was paid for by environmental groups, including the Audubon Naturalist Society, which has sparred with Duncan over the proposed road. An Audubon lobbyist was listed as a hostess for a fundraiser last year for O'Malley, although she backed out after she learned the activity was not permitted under Maryland law.

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