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O'Malley Announces Special Session On Gambling
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July 27, 2012
After months of negotiations and media speculation, Governor Martin O’Malley announced today a second special session of the General Assembly to address issues left unresolved at the end of the regular session in April. This one, which begins August 9th, involves expanded gambling. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
Joel McCord: Flanked by union and legislative leaders, O’Malley put the plan to allow table games in Maryland’s gambling establishments and add a sixth site in Prince Georges County in terms of jobs and resolving lingering issues.
Martin O’Malley: By addressing these lingering issues we have the ability to actually, together, create thousands of new construction jobs in our state as well as 2,000 additional permanent jobs. And these are jobs that pay decent family supporting wages.
McCord: In addition, he said, the plan would provide hundreds of millions of dollars for Maryland’s public schools. O’Malley said none of the issues are new; they’ve been debated for years.
O’Malley: It’s time now to act and time to put this issue behind us so that we can move forward on the other important issues that confront us issues as a state.
McCord: But, Mike Busch, speaker of the House of Delegates, noted there’s another reason to do this soon. Any substantive change in Maryland’s gaming laws must go to referendum.
Michael Busch: And, most importantly I think everyone has to remember the real reason for the special session here late in August is the fact that we have to prepare to put something on the ballot.
McCord: The deadline to get language on the ballot is Aug. 20. Just what’s in the bill? Well, that’s not quite clear yet. It would add a site in Prince George’s and allow table games. The 67 percent tax rate on casinos would remain the same, for the time being.
O’Malley: The tax rate would remain the same until the voters make a decision about whether or not there’s a sixth site. And there would be the mitigation and the offset and those sorts of things that would have to happen with regard to some of the sites that would be affected by the sixth one in the I-95 corridor. O’Malley said the bill is being fined tuned and should be available in a week. Senate President Mike Miller said the bill will look like one drafted by a work group the governor convened after the regular session ended in April.
Miller: The speaker indicated that 90 percent of that, the House members were in accord with and I would imagine that would be the basis for the bill that we’re going to introduce.
McCord: The House, which blocked the Prince George’s gaming bill in April, has long been a stumbling block for gambling. Today, House minority leader Tony O’Donnell and whip Jeannie Haddaway Riccio issued a statement in which they said the issue of expanded gambling is too complex to take up in a “get it done quick” special session. They said it may serve the governor’s “new special friends” in Las Vegas, but not the citizens of Maryland. Nonetheless, Speaker Busch said he “absolutely” has the votes to get this bill through his chamber; sort of.
Busch: Is it a done deal? Look I think you do what you do in the House with every piece of legislation. We will work on all the specifics of the legislation. We’ll do that before we come into the special session. I feel confident that the votes will be there as we work our way through that process.
McCord: Assuming the speaker does scare up the 71 votes necessary to pass the House—passage in the Senate is all but assured—the voters will make the ultimate decision in November. I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis, for 88.1, WYPR.
You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org
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