Statewide Ban on Smoking Picks Up Steam in Assembly
A statewide smoking ban, a top priority of health activists this year, is gaining support from key legislative committees and is likely to reach the Senate floor next week.
In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) said he plans to break a tie vote today on a bill to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. In the House, Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George's) said the measure has enough votes to pass his committee next week.
Said Middleton, who represents one of the state's tobacco-growing districts: "It's time to pass the bill. How many more years can we put this off?"
The long-debated Clean Indoor Air Act failed in the General Assembly for four consecutive years. But health advocates found new momentum this year with the election of Martin O'Malley (D) as governor and a local restriction approved in Baltimore last month. Montgomery, Prince George's and two other counties have approved smoking bans for bars and restaurants. The restaurant industry lobbied heavily against the bill. Lawmakers say much of state is covered by smoking bans.
-- Lisa Rein
Senate Bill to Increase Scholarships Is Altered
The Senate revised a bill yesterday that would increase the individual college scholarship a state senator can award by withdrawing a provision that would have made it more difficult to find out the recipients.
The names of recipients can be obtained with a call to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Under the bill, learning the recipients' identities would require a Freedom of Information Act request.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's) said there was a "misunderstanding" that the provision would create less public scrutiny of the scholarship program.
The Senate also had a spirited debate over another bill, introduced by Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel), that would prohibit any relative of a senator or delegate from receiving a scholarship. Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne's) wanted to exempt foster children, grandchildren and in-laws.