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Annapolis Notes - March 21

March 20, 2011

Fridge bill fails
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday denied Del. Neil Parrott’s attempt to update the state law governing abandoned refrigerators.
The committee voted 13-6 against the bill, largely along political lines. Republicans supported the bill; Democrats didn’t.
Parrott proposed making the abandonment of a refrigerator a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. It’s now a crime with a possible jail term of up to 30 days and a maximum $100 fine.
Parrott has said the refrigerator provision was an example of an outdated law — a vestige from more than a half-century ago, when there was a danger of someone being trapped inside a refrigerator with no way to get out.
Since then, refrigerator production has changed, eliminating that hazard.

Newspaper fans
Apparently, Sen. Ronald N. Young’s attempt to relax requirements for newspaper advertising by governments wasn’t personal.
Young, D-Frederick/Washington, said he reads a local paper every day. Unlike technophiles around him, he’d rather hold a newspaper than surf the Internet or electronic gadgets for the digital version, he said at a bill hearing this month.
Young’s bill would let government entities post required ads about hearings and other proceedings on their websites instead of buying newspaper space.
Legal notices are meant to alert the public of important meetings and bidders about public contracts, but critics say word travels further and cheaper online.
Sen. Roy P. Dyson, D-Calvert/Charles/St. Mary’s, was skeptical about Young’s premise, arguing that saving money shouldn’t trump transparency.
Dyson put in his own plug for the printed product: “I love my newspaper. I love my newspaper. And the first thing that I look at is not a legal notice. It’s not obituaries. But, you know, as I’m reading my newspaper, I eventually get to the legal notices — or obituaries; I can’t remember which one I get to first. At that point, I then say, ‘Oh, that’s what they’re up to.’”
“My mother, bless her memory,” Dyson added later, “never finished a paper without going to look in those legal notices.”

Consummate testimony
Before presenting several complex bills on Tuesday on a weighty topic — the state pension system — Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, acknowledged his difficult task.
To warm up the House Appropriations Committee and highlight past attempts to restructure the system, Serafini went in two directions — serious and silly.
First, he quoted Ecclesiastes 1:9 from the Bible: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Then, he aimed at the funny bone.
“This is a quote from Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth husband as they were leaving for their honeymoon,” Serafini told the committee. “He said, ‘I know what I have to do. But I’m not sure how to make it interesting.’ That’s part of my challenge here.”

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— Andrew Schotz, andrews@herald-mail.com

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