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Time Running Out For Md. Lawmakers To Approve Controversial Bills

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Maryland lawmakers have a lot on their plate and only hours left to work out dozens of important bills. Among them are some hotly contested bills, including a 3 percent increase in the alcohol sales tax.

Bills need approval by both chambers before the General Assembly session ends at midnight Monday.

Derek Valcourt reports with some bills, it’s a matter of ironing out the details, while others have a long way to go.

Drinkers may soon be pouring more money into state coffers.  Saturday night the House agreed to raise the alcohol tax from 6 percent to 9 percent all at once. A version that already passed the Senate would have raised it 1 percent a year for three years.

It’s an increase panned by many stores and bars. Managers arguing the tax increase will hurt their business and jobs.

“Delaware’s only an hour away and for 9 percent people will travel,” said Michael Fishman, Quarry Liquors.

But supporters say the tax would generate an extra $85 million next year alone– with about half going to new school construction.

Another $15 million would go to help the developmentally disabled, helping hundreds who right now are on a waiting list for critical services they need to survive.

“Things that you and I take for granted. They need support with all kinds of daily living activities– things like getting out of bed, eating, dressing, cooking,” said one supporter.

“It’s very critical to me. I can’t live without it,” said another.

As the House and Senate try to reach a compromise on that bill, they’re trying to work out differences in The Dream Act , a bill that would allow illegal immigrants in Maryland high schools to pay in-state tuition rates to attend Maryland universities and colleges. The bill drew fierce debate on the floor this week.

Th heat is still on in the medical marijuana debate, though both chambers have passed different versions of a bill that would allow chronically ill people who get caught with marijuana to argue they are innocent of a crime based on medical necessity.

As usual, lawmakers expect to be working all day Monday right up until the midnight deadline.

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