Local jurisdictions would be allowed to grant exclusive franchises to cable television firms under a bill that received preliminary approval today by the Senate. The bill is needed because of a Jan. 13 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said that without such a provision, local governments could be sued under antitrust laws.
The Senate automatically raised the salaries of state legislators next year by $2,500 when it passed the recommendation of a special salary commission yesterday. The 31-to-14 vote to accept the recommendation puts the pay raise into effect whether or not the House approves it.
The governor-appointed commission recommended a $2,500 salary increase for senators and delegates, to $21,000 yearly, beginning with nextJanuary's legislative session. It also recommended increases in meal allowances and travel costs.
After two hours of emotional debate tonight, the House passed by a 76-to-43 vote a resolution creating a special investigative committee to look into allegations that Del. Robin Ficker (R-Montgomery) violated the state's ethics law by soliciting funds in a questionnaire last spring.
The resolution was introduced after the House/Senate Joint Ethics Committee voted 7 to 0 Monday night to find "a question of substantial conflict of interests" arising from the last item on the publicly funded questionnaire, which asked for a tax-deductible contribution for Ficker. The investigative committee will be made up of five members of the House Rules Committee who will be appointed by Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin.
Gov. Harry Hughes' proposed gasoline tax of 4 1/2 cents per gallon (2 cents in the first year) received preliminary approval in the House of Delegates today. The bill is likely to face several amendments when it comes up for final passage.
During the lengthy debate on the interest rate bill, Del. Andrew J. Burns (D-Baltimore) accused House Majority Leader Donald B. Robertson (D-Montgomery) of giving signals to delegates from the speaker's rostrum when he wanted motions made to cut off debate. Moments later, after a motion to delay debate on the bill had failed, Del. William J. Sprague leaped up to ask if he could make a motion to call for a vote on whether or not to delay.
"No," Robertson said, confused since the vote on the motion was over, "you can't."
"Oh, sorry," Sprague said. "I must have missed the signal."