Friday, Feb. 23, 2007

Annapolis Notes: Clean cars legislation moves to Senate

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The Maryland Senate could vote today on a bill to require stricter vehicle emissions standards. A similar measure passed the House of Delegates on Tuesday by an overwhelming margin.

The House bill, which passed 122-16, included an amendment that would permanently exclude zero-emissions vehicles from state inspection and would extend an exemption on inspections for certain hybrid vehicles until at least 2012.

The amendment also would give anyone buying certain hybrids, which are now exempted from inspection until 2009, a three-year inspection exemption from the date of purchase.

The clean cars bill calls for vehicles sold in Maryland starting in 2011 to be more fuel-efficient and produce less carbon dioxide.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, who voted against the bill, said he is uncomfortable with tying Maryland’s law to California’s standards, which are set and can be changed by California’s Air Resources Board.

‘‘We sacrifice our sovereignty to an un-elected board in California that would be making decisions for us,” said O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby.

— Sean R. Sedam

Both chambers pass early voting amendment

The Maryland Senate narrowly passed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that clears the way for voters to decide whether early voting should be allowed in Maryland for the 2010 gubernatorial election.

The House of Delegates easily passed its version on Feb. 16 but because the two measures differ slightly, the chambers will meet in conference to reconcile the bill before final passage. The Senate proposal limits early voting to the two weeks before an election, while the House version has no time restriction.

Once passed, the referendum would be placed on the 2008 ballot. If voters endorse the measure, the General Assembly would spell out the parameters of early voting in subsequent legislation.

Senators voted 31-16 on Tuesday to advance the amendment. Democratic Sens. George W. Della (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore and James Brochin (D-Dist. 42) of Towson joined the 14-member Republican caucus in opposing the measure.

‘‘Unfortunately, the experience in Baltimore city is they couldn’t get regular voting right,” Della said.

— Alan Brody

Rally calls for expansion of ormer felons’ voting rights

Hundreds of African Methodist Episcopal congregants rallied Monday in the capital to extend voting rights to former felons.

‘‘A person’s right to vote is a badge of citizenship and without it, all other rights are in jeopardy,” said Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt (D-Dist. 47) of Landover Hills.

Current law allows felons to regain their right to vote after they complete their sentences, pay restitution and serve probation after their first conviction.

For subsequent convictions, they must pay all debts to society and then wait three years.

Maryland once banned all felons from voting. In 1974, the General Assembly passed legislation so that anyone convicted of one felony could regain the franchise after he or she completed the sentence and probationary period.

O’Donnell said these are repeat felons who have demonstrated their inability to be a part of normal society.

‘‘These are rapists, murderers and violent offenders who, in my opinion, have forfeited their right to be part of the self-government process,” he said.

— Douglas Tallman

O’Malley nomineesset for confirmation

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s selections to lead nine state departments won unanimous approval from a Senate panel on Monday and are expected to receive confirmation from the full Senate today.

The nominees include O’Malley’s choices to manage three troubled agencies. Donald W. DeVore was plucked from Connecticut to take over the Department of Juvenile Services. Gary D. Maynard was recruited from Iowa to head the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Former Washington, D.C., deputy mayor Brenda Donald was asked to lead the Department of Human Resources.

Other O’Malley picks who now await full Senate approval are: former Montgomery County economic development chief David W. Edgerley as secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, former Prince George’s County senator Gloria G. Lawlah as aging secretary, Eastern Shore farmer Roger L. Richardson for agriculture secretary, longtime disabilities advocate Catherine Raggio for disabilities secretary, and former Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s housing and community development secretary Raymond A. Skinner for the same post.

— Alan Brody