- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

From combined dispatches

ANNAPOLIS — Delegate David D. Rudolph says he is drafting legislation that would move Maryland’s Interstate 95 toll plaza from the Susquehanna River to the Delaware state line.

Delaware officials are thinking about moving their toll plaza one mile west to the same spot, and Mr. Rudolph, Harford County Democrat, believes the two states could combine their toll collection efforts there. But he says the time to act is now.

The deadline for the House to introduce bills without having them referred to the Rules Committee is Friday.

During a meeting with Mr. Rudolph, Cecil County Democrat, last week, Maryland Transportation Authority Secretary Thomas Osborne promised to explore the possibility of combining collection efforts with Delaware.

• • •

If you get one of these license plates, you might not want to drive anywhere near Duke University.

A state lawmaker is pushing a bill creating a “Fear the Turtle” tag with the image of the University of Maryland mascot.

Delegate Barbara A. Frush, Prince George’s County Democrat, said the idea came from the university and that proceeds from the $45 license plates would fund athletic scholarships and provide assistance for students studying environmental science.

A hearing on the bill is set for Feb. 17 in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

• • •

Lawmakers have voted to remove part of the Thornton package to increase aid to public schools — a provision that could have led to lawsuits.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 13-6 this week to remove the provision, which calls for a General Assembly vote on whether the state has enough money to fund the plan.

The state Attorney General’s Office said the mandatory vote amounts to an unconstitutional legislative veto and could lead to legal challenges.

But a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said lawmakers are shirking their responsibility by avoiding a vote on whether the state can afford the plan.

The Thornton plan calls for increasing public school aid by $1.3 billion over six years.

• • •

Sen. Ida G. Ruben is sponsoring legislation that would raise the state tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The Montgomery County Democrat said the proposals would discourage tobacco use and raise revenue for the state.

Mrs. Ruben favors raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $1 to $1.50. The tax on cigars and other products would climb from 15 percent to 45 percent.

She said the higher taxes would raise at least $106 million per year.

Lawmakers raised the cigarette tax from 66 cents a pack to $1 in 2002.

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