August 15, 2012

State Roundup, August 15, 2012

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY OKS GAMBLING BILL: John Wagner of the Post reports that the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation early this morning that would allow a Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George’s County, sending the controversial measure to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his promised signature.

The failure to pass a similar measure at the end of the 90-day legislative session had caused the defeat of tax hikes and budget changes that the first special session in May was called to cure, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Gov. O’Malley will sign the bill at 10 a.m. this morning, write Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record, in a story now put behind its paywall. “I hope that what we’ve done has protected the state’s interests,” said a visibly exhausted Del. Frank S. Turner, a Howard County Democrat and reluctant casino supporter who chairs the House’s subcommittee on gambling issues.

After years of trying and failing, the House veterans caucus finally got an amendment to allow slots at veterans posts statewide and not just on the Eastern Shore, which has had them for years, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

Among other changes, the Maryland Live! casino at Arundel Mills would see its tax rate cut from the current 67% to 51% over the next couple of years — with an option to bring it down to 49% if an independent commission agrees, writes Annie Linskey in the Sun. That’s a larger guaranteed cut than under O’Malley’s original bill, which would have reduced the rate to 56%, with the option to go to 51%.

The compensation is to help Maryland Live! offset the market share it is expected to lose if a casino opens in Prince George’s County, writes Earl Kelly for the Capital-Gazette.

It appeared uncertain early Tuesday whether House supporters would have enough votes in the 141-member chamber, reports David Hill of the Washington Times. But lawmakers adopted several amendments that appeared to lock up last-minute support from legislators who had been on the fence.

The House had approved the measure without a vote to spare, 71-58, and sent it to the Senate shortly before midnight. Senators accepted the House changes, passing the bill 32-14, Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey report in the Sun.

The AP’s Brian Witte reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail that Del. Herb McMillan said, “…it’s all about making room for another pig at the gambling trough. The problem is that while all the casino pigs are getting fat, there’s barely going to be a crumb left to benefit the people when they’re done.”

Here’s the Senate roll call votes and the House roll call votes, both from the Sun.

LIMITING GAMBLING’S INFLUENCE: O’Malley, tipping his hat to Maryland’s good-government crowd, included what sounds like a stern ban on campaign contributions by the gambling industry in his bill to expand gambling in the state. In the real world there’s very little the state can do to limit the clout of big casino operators, whose influence is already at work in state politics, in local governments and on the airwaves, opines the editorial board for the Post.

PIT BULL BILL DIES: A bill meant to overturn a controversial Court of Appeals ruling that declared pit bulls an inherently dangerous dog breed failed after Senate President Mike Miller said the House gave senators a “take it or leave it” ultimatum, reports Bryan Sears of Patch.com

Like the Senate, the House bill set a standard of “strict liability” for owners of dogs of all breeds that bite or attack. But the House bill limited the tougher standard to dogs that are at large, writes Pamela Wood for the Capital-Gazette.

Duane Keenan has a podcast on the outcome of the dog-bite legislation on MarylandReporter.com

GLASS RETURNS: Bryan Sears of Patch.com reports on the return to the State House of Del. Glen Glass, who had vowed to boycott the special session but found his way back for the debates.

DISASTER DECLARATION SOUGHT: Gov. O’Malley formally requested a U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster designation for all five Mid-Shore counties because of severe dry weather during a record-breaking hot July, writes Kelley Allen for the Easton Star-Democrat.

ETHICS IN FREDERICK: Pete McCarthy of the Frederick News-Post reports that two Frederick County commissioners are concerned about a recent statement issued by the county ethics commission that warned elected officials to be careful about putting their private opinions on publicly owned websites and stationary under the aegis of county government.

RYAN GETS THUMBS UP FROM BOTH PARTIES: When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate last week, members of both political parties around the country and in Howard County welcomed the news, Lindsey McPherson writes for the Columbia Flier.