- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2000

House votes to test Baltimore childrenfor lead poisoning

ANNAPOLIS The Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill that would require all children in Baltimore to be tested for lead poisoning.

The legislation would require that every child's blood be tested for the toxic substance by age 1 and again by age 2. The results would be reported to the city Health Department to ensure that children with high levels of lead receive medical attention.

By 2003, parents would have to provide proof of tests when their children enter a public school system.

Lead can cause irreversible brain damage, especially in young children whose bodies are developing. Poisoning can lead to learning and emotional problems and, at high levels, retardation or death.

Most poisoning is tied to deteriorating lead-based paint. It was widely used in homes before it was banned in Baltimore in 1951 and nationwide in 1978.

The House passed the bill Monday night. It still needs Senate approval.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to legislation that would impose state regulation on check-cashing services.

Critics say some services prey on poor people without bank accounts by charging excessive fees to cash checks. They argue that state regulation is needed to ensure that only reasonable fees are charged.

The House has passed its version of the bill. The Senate is expected to take a final vote later this week.

The House passed a bill Monday reducing the state requirement that passenger fares cover at least half the operating costs of mass transit systems in metropolitan areas.

By lowering the fare-box recovery rate to at least 40 percent, mass transit systems serving the Baltimore and Washington areas will be able to guarantee affordable fares and improved customer service, said Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the bill's sponsor.

"This legislation enables us to move forward on our goal of doubling transit ridership within the next 20 years," the governor said in a statement.

On a 102-37 vote, the House sent the bill to the Senate.

Mr. Glendening said if the current requirement is not changed it would force the Mass Transit Administration to significantly reduce service or raise fares. In Baltimore, for example, the MTA would have to cut services by $34 million or raise fares from $1.35 to $1.70, he said.

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