Key Leaders Oppose State Smoking Ban

Ehrlich, Democrats Resist Higher Tobacco Tax

Despite a wave of success on the local level, the effort to extend a restaurant smoking ban across Maryland faces a tough road as tobacco lobbyists and health groups rev up sophisticated campaigns to influence the measure, lawmakers say.

Both the smoking ban and a proposed increase in the tobacco tax face stiff opposition and will find significant resistance from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and Democrats who preside over the House and Senate. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he had little appetite for a tax increase of any kind and cited his upbringing surrounded by tobacco fields as the reason he won't back a smoking ban.

"I'm going to vote against it," said Miller, who represents parts of Prince George's and Calvert counties. "I don't like smoke, but I respect the right of my constituents to eat where they want and the right of restaurant owners to create the kind of ambiance they'd like for their customers."

Man Executed for Killing Woman in '91

Death Penalty Study Found Racial Disparities

Death row inmate Wesley E. Baker died Monday night by lethal injection, becoming the first black man executed in Maryland since a state-sponsored study found disparities, by race and geography, in how the death penalty law is used.

In the snow outside the former Maryland State Penitentiary in Baltimore, about 50 protesters chanted and carried signs. Baker, 47, was condemned to death for fatally shooting a woman, in front of her two grandchildren, in a 1991 robbery in a Catonsville mall parking lot.

Baker's was the first execution in the state since June 2004 and the fifth since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

3 Sentenced to Prison in Charles Arsons

Man Who Planned Crime Gets Nearly 20 Years

Almost a year to the day after a series of arson fires devastated the Hunters Brooke housing development in Charles County, a federal judge handed down a sentence of nearly 20 years to Patrick S. Walsh, 21, the Fort Washington man who planned the crime.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus also sentenced two other men who pleaded guilty to helping set the fires: Security guard Aaron L. Speed, 22, was ordered to serve more than eight years, and firefighter trainee Jeremy D. Parady, 21, more than seven years.

The fires destroyed 12 new, unoccupied homes and damaged 15 others. The fires, set before dawn Dec. 6, 2004, were Maryland's biggest residential arson in memory.

Del. Brown Joins O'Malley Ticket

Rival Praises Choice of Pr. George's Legislator

Del. Anthony G. Brown (D), a second-term legislator from Prince George's County, accepted an offer to be Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's running mate in next year's governor's race.

O'Malley's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, praised the selection of Brown. However, Duncan said in a statement, "the choice Democratic primary voters face is not about lieutenant gubernatorial candidates. . . . The choice is between Doug Duncan and Martin O'Malley."

O'Malley said he will formally announce his pick tomorrow morning at an event in Brown's home town of Mitchellville before the two head out on a three-day tour of the state.

Across the Region

Metro Management; Leesburg Pike Proposal

* A majority of Metro board members have become disillusioned with the performance of the agency's top executive, Richard A. White, and have begun closed-door discussions about how to remove him from the job, according to several sources familiar with the talks.

* Managers of the project that would extend Metro through Tysons Corner unveiled a proposal that would transform Leesburg Pike in the Tysons area from a strip mall-oriented highway into an eight-lane, pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard with a Metrorail line overhead.

Snow Must Go Schools were closed Friday in Alexandria, but Marlon Newman and Eric McKenney still cleared sidewalks at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy.