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Maryland Legislative Highlights
Environment: Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) predicts that the session's "major battle" will be over how to address an outbreak of Pfiesteria piscicida, a toxic microbe that bloomed last summer in several Chesapeake Bay tributaries. A state panel recommended that the state focus on curbing pollution from farms.
Higher education: Glendening has proposed increasing state spending on higher education by $635 million over the next four years, the largest such initiative since the state created the current University of Maryland system a decade ago.
Health care: Glendening is proposing to expand health care options for children of parents who don't have insurance and make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. The plan would cost the state $29 million but would be paid for mostly with federal aid.
School funding: Glendening is proposing an additional $50 million for the state's 23 counties, including about $10 million each for Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The money would go mainly to programs for poor children and for students for whom English is a second language.
Gambling: Lawmakers will consider a constitutional amendment to allow a statewide referendum on whether to legalize slot machines. The bill would not be subject to a gubernatorial veto but would require a three-fifths majority vote in both the House and Senate.
Local projects: Budget proposals may include funding for a symphony hall in Montgomery County and a replacement for Cole Field House at the University of Maryland.
Utilities: The general assembly will consider broad deregulation of the utility industry.
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