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O'Malley Urged to Veto Bills

Consumer groups are urging Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to veto a bill that would allow a Columbia-based, for-profit credit counseling firm whose business practices are under review in multiple states to be licensed in Maryland.

The legislation, approved by the General Assembly during the recent legislative session, would allow AscendOne and businesses like it to operate in Maryland just as nonprofit debt counselors do. Supporters say for-profit counseling firms have helped many homeowners find financial security. But opponents who have fought the bill for two years say the for-profit firms are predators cashing in on vulnerable homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis.

A veto would need to come by Thursday, when the governor is scheduled to sign a final batch of bills approved during the legislature's annual 90-day session.

"We ask you to pursue a leadership role and veto" the bill, leaders of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition and Maryland Public Interest Research Group wrote O'Malley (D). "Otherwise, this legislation will ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities will provide the '"profit'" to the for-profit businesses in this industry. The empty pockets of credit-challenged individuals is not the proper foundation for business success."

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor has not made a final decision on the bill. "There are a number of requests in for us to sign the legislation and to veto it," Abbruzzese said. "He's going through those."

Another controversial measure before the governor is one he was set to sign last month but pulled from the list after a last-minute push by public health advocates. That bill would classify as beer the popular fruity malt liquor drinks dubbed "alcopops" by detractors.

When they passed the bill, lawmakers overrode a recent opinion from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), who said the drinks are distilled spirits that should be taxed as liquor and sold only in liquor stores. Abbruzzese said the governor is still weighing whether to sign the bill.

By Anne Bartlett  |  May 19, 2008; 10:22 AM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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Comments

As a nurse and a mother, I see in the Emergency Department what happens when teens drink. The alcohol industry is targeting our teens with this alcopop drinks. The alcohol industry wants to reduce the $1.50 tax per gallon to 0.09 cents a gallon. Jack Daniels Country Cocktails is not beer. These types of drinks are not beer and should not be sold as such. I hope the governor is tired of hearing about underage drinkers, teens dying from alcohol and alcohol related crashes and vetos the bill.

Posted by: Tamra White, RN | May 19, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Governor O'Malley should definatley veto the alcopops legislation. This bill is just bad public policy because it will result in teens getting more access to alcohol, one of the top killers of kids in the U.S.

Posted by: JDC | May 19, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

As a teen, I have seen the harm that "alcopops" can do. Young kids, most often girls, drink these beverages unaware of the high alcohol content and make themselves extremely sick. I respectfully urge Governor O'Malley to do the right thing and veto this special interest bill for the good of kids my age across the state.

Posted by: BGS | May 19, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

We work with families on a daily basis who have suffered the tragic consequences of underage drinking. The facts cannot be disputed, alcohol is the number one drug of choice for our nation's youth. We urge the Governor to step forward and be a leader. Veto SB 745 the "alcopops bill" and place the safety of our youth at the very top of his priority list.

Posted by: Caroline Cash, ED MADD | May 19, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I was one who met with the Governor several weeks ago about "Alcopops". I lost my 18 year old son, Marc, to a teenaged drunk driver. This is not a tax issue as the Liquor Lobby would have us believe, it is public safety. Almost 15,000 kids have died in cars in the last 2 years, 31% alcohol related. Is there really a choice whether or not to veto this bill? Governor O'Malley, please veto this bill!

Posted by: Neil Goldberg, Grieving Father | May 21, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

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