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Annapolis briefs

April 06, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Munson explains his vote for smoking ban



ANNAPOLIS - Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, told the Senate on Thursday that his vote to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants statewide was historic for him.

"This is the first time in 33 years I've ever voted for a bill of this kind," he said, referring to the length of his state legislative career.

"I thought this bill was flexible enough that it wouldn't put people out of business," Munson said in an interview after the vote. "My main concern always - not always, but often - is jobs."

The bill lets establishments apply for an exemption if they can prove that the smoking ban would hurt their business.

"Look, I've never been a smoker," Munson said. "I've never smoked a cigarette in my entire life. I took two puffs off of one one time and threw it away and that was the end of it.

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"I do believe that the health consequences have become more clear in recent years. My mother died of lung cancer and there was absolutely no question about it - it was related to smoking."

The two other senators representing Washington County - George C. Edwards and Alex X. Mooney - voted against the ban.

The Senate and the House will meet to resolve differences in their versions of the bill. The Senate bill includes an exemption for private clubs like fraternal organizations; the House version does not.

The House passed the ban 98-40 last month. All five delegates representing Washington County voted no.




Reimbursement bill killed in committee



ANNAPOLIS - A local delegate's bill to raise the reimbursement rate for businesses that pick up dead bodies was killed in a Senate committee this week.

The state pays companies to transport the bodies of people who died by accident, homicide, suicide or other suspicious circumstance to Baltimore for autopsies.

A bill sponsored by Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, initially proposed raising the rate from $2 per loaded mile - one way to Baltimore - to $2.75 per loaded mile.

Myers later amended the bill to make the rate five times the federal mileage reimbursement rate. Based on the 2007 IRS rate of 48.5 cents, the body-collection reimbursement rate would be $2.43 per loaded mile.

Myers' bill passed the House 136-0 last month.

On Tuesday, though, the Senate Finance Committee defeated the bill 8-3, ending its chances.




Houses need to find compromise for bill to study prison violence



ANNAPOLIS - Both houses of the General Assembly have passed a bill calling for a task force to study prison violence, but their versions don't match.

On Thursday, the Senate decided not to accept the House version, so representatives from both bodies will meet to work out a compromise.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, was one of two lawmakers to amend the bill on the Senate side. His amendment increased the number of prison employees from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union, on the task force from one to two.

On the House side, the Judiciary Committee amended the bill to specify "correctional officers" instead of just prison "workers."

The amendment also added representatives from other groups, including the state public defender's office, the state police and the Maryland Classified Employees Association, to the task force, as well as someone "experienced in the field of medical and health care services for prisoners."

Del. Christopher B. Shank. R-Washington, said he and Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, worked on the Judiciary Committee amendments.

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