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Published on August 13th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, August 13, 2012

DEM ANTI-PETITION LAWSUIT REJECTED: David Hill of the Washington Times reports that a Maryland court on Friday upheld a petition forcing a referendum this fall on the state’s congressional map. Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Ronald Silkworth rejected a lawsuit filed by the Maryland Democratic Party against the state Board of Elections, alleging that it erroneously validated thousands of signatures collected using the website MDPetitions.com.

David Moon of Maryland Juice blogs that it appears that an appeal may be pending, but for now, the GOP redistricting referendum is one step closer to the November ballot.

BILL WILL CHANGE: A bill authorizing gambling expansion in Maryland will likely be amended with a lot of tweaks, according to the chairman of the House subcommittee that is holding hearings on the legislation, reports Bryan Sears of Patch.com. He also writes that focus on legislation to expand gambling and overturn a controversial Court of Appeals ruling on pit bulls shifts to the House of Delegates.

John Wagner of the Post reports that Speaker Michael Busch said that House of Delegates will seek to make the governor’s gambling bill fair to casinos and counties that would lose money if a venue opens in Prince George’s County.

GAMBLING EXPRESS SLOWS: House slows gambling express train but not because of a cautionary tale from a former Montana lawmaker, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

HELP FOR GAMBLERS: Brian Witte of the AP writes in the Cumberland Times-News that while much of the debate on expanding gambling has focused on who will get what, how much and when, a fund for problem gamblers was not assured of getting anything. But one advocate was in Annapolis last week urging lawmakers to approve a $1,000-per-table annual fee to help adjust to an expansion to table games like blackjack, after she learned nothing had been included in a draft of the bill.

JOINT OVERSIGHT: Robert Lang of WBAL-AM reports that Del. Eric Luedtke will propose changing the measure to allow table games and a casino in Prince George’s County to include creating a joint House and Senate panel to oversee gambling.

REIMBURSEMENT OPPOSITION: Opposition appears to be brewing for a plan to reimburse Anne Arundel County for gambling tax revenue it is expected to lose if a casino opens in Prince George’s County, reports Earl Kelly for the Capital-Gazette.

GAMBLING’S INFLUENCE: The editorial board of the Sun writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot don’t agree on a lot of things, particularly when it comes to gambling. But they do appear to agree on one thing: Contributions from the gambling industry have the potential to unduly influence legislative and executive decisions about the expansion and management of the state’s gambling program.

And Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner writes that state senators and delegates are battling over the provision in the bill to expand gambling that would prevent casino owners from making campaign contributions to lawmakers.

Delegates voiced their concerns about some provisions in the bill, including language banning casino owners from making campaign contributions to state and local elected officials, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

SENATE PASSES: It didn’t get many changes in the Senate after rejecting more than two dozen floor amendments offered mostly by Republicans, writes Dana Amihere for MarylandReporter.com. The Senate, in a 28-14 vote Friday night, passed the bill to expand gambling with table games and sixth casino in Prince George’s County.

Here’s how the senators voted on the bill, brought to you by John Wagner of the Post.

Dan Menefee for Talbot Spy has a video report with Senate Republican Leader E.J. Pipkin  before and after Friday’s vote.

Few of the Senate votes were close, and most amendments failed by about a 3-to-1 margin as Senate President Mike Miller flexed his political muscle to pass the bill, which would permit table games at the state’s five licensed casinos as well as the one proposed for Prince George’s, writes Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey for the Sun. Five senators were absent.

Sun cartoonist KAL offers up his take on the General Assembly special session: The Five Ring Circus.

MORE THAN POLITICIANS: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that, as senators and delegates returned to the State House to broaden gambling laws, they simultaneously convened for the third special session within the last 12 months. And for a General Assembly in which many of the elected officials have other jobs and are not exclusively politicians, committing time outside of the annual 90-day session can become a balancing act.

PIT BULL LEGISLATION: The editorial board for the Washington Post urges the state legislature to act on pit bull legislation this special session.

Duane Keenan has an audio report for MarylandReporter.com on Senate action and House testimony on the dog-bite legislation.

VOTER FRAUD FRAUD: The tea party-inspired Election Integrity Maryland recently alleged dead voters on the registration rolls, incorrect addresses and so on. The Arundel County Board of Elections is investigating, but according to the director of voter registration at the Maryland Board of Elections, “Voter fraud is very, very, very rare.” The right, opines Pat Furgurson in an opinion piece in the Capital-Gazette, has connived to depress turnout.

GOLD MEDAL IN TECH JOBS: Sarah Gantz of the Baltimore Business Journal quotes Alice Hill of Dice.com, a career website focused on the technology industry, as saying “Maryland has the gold medal right now for tech jobs in the country.”

TAX FREE SHOPPING: Shoppers in showed up at Maryland malls and other retail outlets in large numbers yesterday, the first day of the state’s Tax Free Week, writes Kevin Rector of the Sun.

Jennifer Liu of Frederick was shopping with her family along Urbana Pike, grabbing items for her three boys to take back to school with them, report Danielle Gaines and Ed Waters of the Frederick News-Post. The family waits for tax-free week each year to save a little extra cash, she said.

HEALTH REFORM LEADERS: The District and Maryland are moving aggressively to implement virtual markets of insurance plans, becoming national leaders in carrying out President Obama’s vision for health care reform, while their Republican neighbors in Virginia remain less than eager to implement the controversial law, writes Tom Howell of the Washington Times.

HARASSMENT SUIT: Erin Cox and Andrea Siegel of the Sun report more about the depositions from Anne Arundel police officers in the harassment suit against County Executive John Leopold. One nickname for Leopold given to him by police is “Crazy Uncle Jack.”

COUNCIL INVOLVEMENT IN SUITS: Two Anne Arundel County councilmen want to revive a bill that would allow the council to have the final say on lawsuit settlements, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette. The councilmen want to re-introduce the legislation in light of developments in former county employee Karla Robinson Hamner’s federal lawsuit against the county.

WICOMICO CHARTER: Along with making choices for president, senator and congressional representative this November, Wicomico County residents will also have a hand in changing the county’s governing laws, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.

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