Legislation that would have removed Virginia's 18 percent ceiling on credit card interest rates, a key proposal in the current session backed by the state's bankers and retailers, apparently died in a tie committee vote last week.
The House Corporations, Insurance and Banking Committee had been expected to approve the measure, but a 7-to-7 tie was fatal.
Banking and retail lobbyists had argued that their inudustries lose money under the current limits and that the interest rate should be allowed to float. u
But the absence of five members and an absention by Del. Harvey B. Morgan (R-Gloucester) created a tie. Morgan, who supported the bill, is a pharmacist. He said he abstained because of a conflict of interest.
Virginia's Senate now begins wrestling with repeal of 2 percent of the state 4 percent sales tax on food, a House-approved measure that is opposed by the leader of the Senate's key money committee.
The House voted 52-to-47 last week to repeal half the tax. It was the first time since 1966 when the sales tax was started that efforts to repeal all or part of it have gotten out of a General Assembly chamber. The measure would halve the 4 percent food sales tax and provide an $18 annual income tax credit to Virginians earning less than $20,000.
Sen. Edward Willey (D-Richmond), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said earlier in the session he opposes repeal. He has said he doesn't expect the bill to garner the votes of more than five of the 15 finance committee members.
Opponents generally say they believe repeal will cost the state too much lost revenue, and that will lead to cuts in state services, such as public-school spending and aid to counties an cities. Gov. John Dalton has expressed such a view.
In Annapolis, meanwhile, a bill which would increase truck fees by $73 million a year and use $30 million of that for state and local transportation programs picked up an endorsement Friday from the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
The proposed increase in fees on commercial trucks is one of at least three measures now under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly to produce more money for the state's ailing transportation trust fund.
But unlike the others -- a gasoline tax hike and an increase in license plate fees -- the truck tax also would produce money for purposes other than transportation.
As a result of Friday's vote, which came with just one dissent, the truck-tax bill will be introduced under the sponsorship of the Ways and Means Committee instead of coming in with just one or two delegates as sponsors.
The bill would produce an estimated $73 million a year, all of which would go into the transportation fund for state and local projects. But the bill would also transfer $40 million a year in corporation tax receipts, which now go into the transportation fund, back into general state funds. That would leave a net gain for transportation of $33 million, with about $22 million going to the state and about $11 million to the countries for road construction and repairs.
The bill also contains one other provision which is sure to arouse considerable opposition from Gov. Harry Hughes and the Department of Transportation but which could meet with a lot of favor within the legislature.
It would require the department to increase the amount of money it spends for repairing roads and bridges by at least $52 million a year for the next two years.
Hughes is adamantly opposed to setting any requirements on how money must be allocated from the transportation fund for roads, bridges, mass transit, BWI airport and the Port of Baltimore.
Del. Stewart Bainum (D-Montgomery), chairman of a subcommittee which drafted the bill, criticized the department or spending too much money in recent years on building new roads and too little on maintaining the roads and too little on maintaining the roads and bridges which already exist.
Separately, Hughes said last week he would probably veto any legislation that would preempt local jurisdictions from passing their own laws to regulate condominium conversions. Departing from his usual policy of not saying in advance whether he would veto a particular piece of pending legislation, Hughes also clearly indicated the opposition he has to the recommendations of his own commission on state condominium laws.
This week's business-related committee hearings in the Maryland and Virginia General Assemblies: MARYLAND SENATE
Monday: Finance pension subcommittee hearing on pension and retirement legislation, 4 p.m., Presidential Wing, James Office Bldg.
Tuesday: Economic Affairs Committee hearings on bills relating to Public Service Commission procedures, energy conservation and workmen's compensation, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Wednesday: Budget and Taxation Committee to consider several tax bills, including ones relating to inheritance tax, energy tax credits and real property tax credits, 3:30 p.m., Room 100, James Office Bldg.
Economic Affairs, Committee to consider legislation pertaining to solar energy devices, geothermal resources and energy conservation, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Juricial Proceedings Committee to consider bills relating to gambling in Charles County, statute on limitations on consumer credit contracts and Sunday closing laws in Anne Arundel County, 10 a.m., Room 300, James Office Bldg .
Thursday: Economice Affairs Committee hearing on bills dealing with gasoline products marketing and retail service stations, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Friday: Economic Affairs Committee to consider health, automobile and unemployment insurance legislation, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Finace Committee hearing on bill relating to sick pay and social security benefits, 10 a.m., Presidential Wing, James Office Bldg. MARYLAND HOUSE
Monday: Ways and Means Committee to consider various property tax legislation, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Lowe Office Bldg.
Tuesday: Appropriate Committee hearing on pension and retirement benefits for teachers, employes of correctional institutions and commissioners of the District Courty system, 11 a.m., Room 130, Lowe Bldg.
Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee hearing on bills dealing with discrimination in real estate, jury service, country club and hospitals and sexual harrassment in employment, 1 p.m., Room 140, Lowe Office Bldg.
Economic Matters Committee to consider legislation regarding real estate, 1 p.m., Room 150, Lowe Office Bldg.
Environmental Matters Committee hearing on energy and energy conservation-related legislation, 12:30 p.m., Room 160, Lowe.
Wednesday: Appropriations Committee to consider several bills including ones relating to the Treasurer's unpresented check fund and the client's security trust fund, 11 a.m., Room 130, Lowe Office Bldg.
Economic Matters Committee hearing on bills pertaining to mortgage loans, consumer credit, check cashing and banking institutions, 1 p.m., Room 150, Lowe Office Bldg.
Ways and Means Committee to consider bills on the Department of Economic and Community Development's neighborhood housing services fund and industrial development and resource conservation, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Lowe Office Bldg.
Thursday: Appropriations Committee to consider bills relating to the merit system, health insurance for state employes and the minimum wage law, 11 a.m., Room 130, Lowe Office Bldg.
Economic Matters Committee hearing on bills pertaining to abandoned property and gasohol, 1 p.m., Room 150, Lowe Office Bldg.
Ways and Means Committee to consider bills relating to electric vehicles, truck weight registration fees, commuter rail subsidies and taxes, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Lowe Office Bldg. VIRGINIA SENATE (Standing Committees)
Monday: Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, 9 a.m., Senate Room A, General Assembly Bldg.
Commerce and Labor Committee, 2 p.m., Senate Room B, General Assembly Bldg.
Tuesday: Finance Committee, 10 a.m., Senate Room B, General Assembly Bldg.
Thursday: Transportation Committee, 2 p.m., Senate Room B, General Assembly Bldg. VIRGINIA HOUSE (Standing Committees)
Monday: Finance Committee, one half hour after adjournment, Room D, General Assembly Bldg.
Appropriations Committee, Monday through Friday, 45 minutes after adjournment, Appropriations Room, General Assembly Bldg.
Tuesday: Corporations, Insurance and Banking Committee, 10 a.m., Room 4, Capital.
Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee, 9:30 a.m., Room C, General Assembly Bldg.
Wednesday: Agriculture Committee, 3 p.m., Room 2, Capitol.
Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, 10 a.m., Room 4, Capitol.
Finance Committee, one half hour after adjournment, Room D, General Assembly Bldg.
Labor and Commerce Committee, 10 a.m., Room 2, Capitol.
Thursday: Corporations, Insurance and Banking Committee, 10 a.m., Room 4, Capitol.
Health, Welfare and Institutions, 9:30 a.m., Room C, Capitol.