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Dead or Alive: Where are the Hot Bills?

The past week brought a flurry of activity on legislation that has stirred debate on this blog and beyond. Moving forward for further consideration are bills to expand access to health care, apologize for slavery and recognize the difference in Muslim burials.

In the dead category is Western Maryland Del. LeRoy E. Myers' bill banning the display of fake bull testicles and other fake body parts that are now used to decorate many pickup trucks.

The bill simply didn't come up for a vote in the House Rules Committee, so will see no further action this session.

"I do think the bill completely took on a life of its own," said Myers, who said he received thousands of e-mails supporting the measure but also faced ribbing on the Internet and in Annapolis. "We have movie ratings and V-chips, and I don't see why this doesn't fall into the same category."

Another bill that died was one that would have limited a politician's ability to make automated campaign calls to voters. The so-called "robocalls" plagued voters in the final days of last fall's elections, when they often received several calls a day from candidates competing for local, state and national offices.

"I'm incredibly disappointed," said James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), the bill sponsor. "I think the people were behind us."

Meanwhile, a billl that acknowledges the growing political clout of Maryland's Muslim community cleared the House of Delegates unanimously Friday and is headed to the Senate.

Muslims believe in a ritual cleaning rather than embalming dead bodies But anyone applying for a mortician's license must embalm and perform cosmetic work on at least 20 dead bodies as an apprentice. The bill would open the industry to Muslims by exempting them from embalming as they learn the trade, creating two licensing tracks for morticians: those who embalm and those who don't.

A House committee gave broad support to a measure that would expand health insurance to many of the state's 250,000 uninsured residents, and it will go to the House floor for a vote this week. The big question is whether it can clear the Senate.

The Children and Working Families Healthcare Act would use about $212 million a year from a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax, plus millions of dollars leveraged from the federal government, to enroll poor adults and moderate-income children in the Medicaid program.

A Senate committee meanwhile gave unanimous approval to a resolution "expressing regret" for Maryland's role in slavery, moving the state closer to becoming the second state to apologize for slavery's legacy.

Virginia approved a measure last month apologizing for its role in slavery, and several other states have recently introduced similar resolutions.

Lisa Rein and Ovetta Wiggins

By Phyllis Jordan  |  March 12, 2007; 6:17 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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