- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

ANNAPOLIS The House and Senate failed to meet a midnight deadline for passing the state's $19.6 billion budget last night because of last-minute changes that delayed reprinting of the bill.

There will be no practical effects of missing the constitutional deadline if the budget is completed before the session ends. Legislative leaders said they expect a final vote today.

The budget proposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening contains the first state aid ever provided to private and parochial schools in Maryland but has little money for tax cuts.

One of the most controversial items in this year's budget is $6 million set aside by Mr. Glendening to buy textbooks for students in public and private schools. It narrowly survived key votes in the House Appropriations Committee and during debate by the 141-member House.

Mr. Glendening did not put any restrictions on use of the money, but House and Senate negotiators agreed over the weekend to attach conditions that will prohibit the money from being used at wealthier private schools. Schools will be excluded if they charge tuition exceeding the average amount of money spent on public school students, which is expected to be between $7,000 and $7,500 next year.

Public and private schools will be eligible to get as much as $90 for each student for textbooks if 20 percent or more of their students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches under federal food programs. Otherwise, they will get a maximum of $60 per student.

House and Senate committees are still working on a package of modest tax cuts that will include elimination of at least part of the inheritance tax.

The House has voted to get rid of the tax at a cost of about $55 million to the state, but the Senate went with a smaller tax cut. It would eliminate the tax only for spouses and direct descendants such as children and grandchildren, saving taxpayers about $15 million.

While some lawmakers wanted to use the surplus to cut taxes, the governor chose to pour a lot of money into constructing schools and college buildings. He also set aside a chunk of money in savings to pay for reductions in the income tax, which will take place in the next two years.

* * *

The Senate gave final approval yesterday to legislation that would encourage college students who live in dormitories to be vaccinated against meningitis.

Vaccinations would be required unless a student or a student's parents signed a waiver saying they understood the dangers presented by meningitis and did not want the vaccine.

Two Maryland college students have died in the last 14 months from complications caused by the meningitis bacteria.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health found the disease struck three in 100,000 college students living on campus, about three times more often than it attacked off-campus students and other young people in the same age range.

For freshmen living in dorms, the risks are five times greater, said Dr. Lee Harrison, the principal investigator on the study published in the May Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously without debate. It now goes to Mr. Glendening to be signed or vetoed.

* * *

Legislation intended to make it easier for builders to rehabilitate homes and businesses in older communities was approved yesterday by the Senate and sent to Mr. Glendening for his signature.

Mr. Glendening introduced the bill to try to encourage builders to look to areas of the state that already are developed instead of bulldozing farms and forests for development.

The governor said when he proposed his bill that zoning, building and fire codes are sometimes so restrictive they make it prohibitively expensive to redevelop existing buildings.

He said characteristics that make towns such as Annapolis and Ellicott City so appealing narrow streets, homes and apartments just down the block from restaurants and shops, a building that hugs the sidewalk next to one with a tidy front yard are prohibited by modern codes and zoning ordinances.

Adding flexibility to building codes and land-use regulations will not be easy because they are adopted and enforced locally. Mr. Glendening's bill provides incentives to county officials to follow model codes that would make it easier to rehabilitate older buildings.

* * *

The Senate yesterday gave final approval to a bill that would increase the amount of scholarships available to students planning to become teachers.

The bill needs only the signature of Mr. Glendening, who sponsored it, to become law.

It will increase the maximum annual scholarship for students at four-year colleges from $3,000 to $5,000. The maximum for community college students will increase from $1,000 to $2,000.

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