- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Bills to strengthen state laws dealing with stalkers and drunken drivers were among about 150 new laws signed yesterday by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence hope the stalking law will make it easier to get convictions and protect potential victims.

The major change in the law will allow prosecutors to file charges in cases where people who are harassed have a reasonable fear of being harmed. The current law requires proof of intent to harm someone before a conviction can be obtained.

“This is something that [prosecutors] can get convictions under,” Delegate Carol Petzold, Montgomery County Democrat and a sponsor of the bill, said.

The drunken-driving bill will require drivers with multiple convictions in a five-year period to spend at least five days in jail for a second offense and 10 days for a third offense. Judges currently have the option of sentencing repeat offenders to community service.

Also on the list of new laws is a bill that was required to balance the budget for the current year and for fiscal 2004, which begins July 1.

It will cut about $315 million from the fund used for state transportation projects and use the money for programs not related to building highways and bridges and operating mass transit systems. The bill also reduces state transportation aid for local governments by about $102 million for fiscal 2004.

Mr. Ehrlich has only one more bill-signing ceremony, which is scheduled for May 22, and he refused yesterday to discuss what bills might be vetoed.

The first-term Republican has promised to veto a $135 million package of business-tax increases passed by Democrats in the legislature to help balance the budget for next year. But the governor would not discuss other potential targets except to say he is considering vetoes of a dozen or more “very controversial bills.”

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