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Annapolis Notes - March 28

March 27, 2011

A pothole for scooter bill

On Thursday, when one committee backed a bill requiring registration and insurance for motor scooters and mopeds, another was less impressed.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted in favor of the bill, which also would force drivers to have licenses and wear protective gear.

But the House Environmental Matters Committee designated a similar bill for “summer study,” or further review, making it unlikely that a scooter bill will pass both chambers this year.

Bonding over shale

A debate over Western Maryland’s Marcellus Shale geologic formation, a rich natural-gas reserve, divided urban and rural legislators and pitted Republicans against Democrats — which, some say, is two ways of describing the same thing.

Del. Wendell R. Beitzel, R-Garrett, backed drilling as a boon for Western Maryland and tried several times to defeat or amend the bill, but skeptics say the drilling method has potential dangers.

The formation is in Garrett County and parts of Allegany County. (An analysis of the bill states that it’s in Washington County, too, but Beitzel said that’s not true.)

The final vote was 98-40, mostly with Democrats supporting the slowdown and Republicans opposed.

One exception was Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who voted with local Republicans, including Beitzel, LeRoy E. Myers Jr., Andrew A. Serafini, Neil C. Parrott and Michael J. Hough.

Afterward, Donoghue said Marcellus drilling is an economic issue, particularly as energy prices soar.

“I think the folks in Garrett County probably need an injection of some good luck,” he said. “And if it comes through the drilling, I think that’s terrific. They can desperately use the jobs and the money.”

A little help from friends

During House and Senate floor sessions, lawmakers sometimes must assess and vote on several bills in quick succession.

On Wednesday, one House vote was on expanding the statute of limitations from one year to three years for a fourth-degree sex offense against a minor.

The bill passed 126-12.

There was a pocket of Western Maryland dissent in the rear of the chamber: Wendell R. Beitzel, Kevin Kelly, LeRoy E. Myers Jr., Neil C. Parrott and Andrew A. Serafini.

Asked later about the objection, Myers wasn’t sure about the bill, but said lawmakers often rely on a colleague on the committee that heard the bill — in this case, Kelly.

However, the opposition might have been accidental. Kelly said later he was poised to warn colleagues about a gun bill — then, his laptop computer screen briefly went blank, so he lost track of what bill was up.

— Andrew Schotz, andrews@herald-mail.com

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