Virginia's General Assembly recessed last week until April 29, after legislation giving the Virginia Port Authority power to condemn land in Portsmouth for a $200 million coal-lending terminal was passed by the House of Delegates.
In Annapolis, meanwhile, Maryland's general Assembly will be busy today in the final hours of the current session.
The Virginia port bills passed authorize the VPA to pay for the property and to allow the authority to issue revenue bonds to pay for the construction. It passed 80-to-15. A second bill in the package, authorizing the VPA to condemn the 223-acre site embroiled in an ownership dispute between Norfolk & Western Railway and Cox Enterprises of Atlanta, passed 84-to-11.
Maryland's House of Delegates approved a bill Friday pushed by Gov. Harry Hughes and Montgomery County officials as a way of protecting poor and elderly renters from the adverse effects of condominium conversions.
The bill, approved 116-to-5, includes provisions permitting local governments to exceed the requirements in the statewide law -- the primary element fought for by Montgomery County officials, but opposed by developers. Approximately 15,000 rental units were converted to condominiums in Montgomery County over the last decade.
The bill must be returned to the Senate for concurrence with minor House amendments.
A Maryland Senate resolution approved by the House, 89-to-15, calls for the appointment of a task force to study off-track wagering and "it's probable social and economic effects on the residents of Maryland."
The measure must go back to the Senate for concurrence with an amendment tacked on by Del. Steven Stark (D-Baltimore) that would also require the task force to study the effects on the citizenry of Maryland's state-run lottery.
The condominium bill pitted Hughes against his own Commission on Condominium Laws, which had recommended a bill that would have kept any local laws from superceding the state law.
The measure would require developers to set aside up to 20 percent of the units in a building being converted for so-called "designated families."
Such families would include anyone 62 years of age of older or handicapped and earning a family income below 80 percent of the area median family income.
"Designated familes" would be permitted to remain as tenants for up to three years -- or longer, if permitted by local laws -- and their annual rent increases would not be permitted to exceed increases in the consumer price index.
If more than 20 percent of a building's units qualified as "designated families," the tenants who had resided in the building the longest would be given priority for the set-aside units.
The measure also would require developers to pay up to $1,500 in moving expenses for any tenants forced to move out and then back into an apartment to permit the developer to refurbish the interior of the unit.
The developer would also be required to pay for up to three months rent for the tenant elsewhere.
Tenants in units being converted automatically would be given the first choice to buy his or her unit at the price offered by the developer.
In other action, the Senate sent back to committee a bill that would sharply curtail legislators' association with cable television firms, legislation apparently aimed at two Montgomery County senators.
The Senate's action Thursday by a 37-to-13 vote effectively killed the measure sponsored by Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery) and came after nearly two hours of debate.
"I believe in ethics legislation, but let's make it good legislation," said Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery) who believed he was one of Denis' targets.
Levitan, whose law firm represents a cable company, and Sen. Victor Crawford (D-Montgomery), who resigned as president of a cable firm in February, both testified during hearings they believed Denis aimed the bill at them.
The bill would prohibit legislators and other state officials from representing cable television firms if they or any member of their family would be paid for it.
Several companies have expressed an interest in getting the Montgomery County cable franchise, scheduled to be awarded by the county council this year or next, and have enlisted local aid.
Cable firms are awarded franchises by local governments. Many have been criticized for taking a "rent-a-citizen" approach of offering a prominent local citizen stock in the firm to present themselves as a local company.
Denis said this practice has led to scandal and corruption in other cities and said his bill would prevent that.
But most of his colleagues disagreed and said bills aimed at preventing a part-time legislator from performing his full-time job were counterproductive.
"It's come to the point where I lose business because I'm a state senator. I go represent someone before a state agency, and the judge or hearing officer bends over backward to make sure he doesn't show any favortisim," said Sen. Melvion Steinberg (D-Baltimore County), a lawyer, according to United Press International.