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Maryland Considering Summer Special Sessions to Tackle Revenue, Gaming Proposals

Last Friday, labor leaders representing nearly a dozen unions sent a letter to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley urging him to support an expanded gaming bill. House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller also received the letter which calls for a sixth casino in Prince George’s County and the addition of table games in the five currently operating.

Patrick Moran, executive director of AFSCME Maryland, signed the letter saying it, “creates the structure for long-term revenue growth for Maryland.” The letter also indicates that the Prince George’s County casino project, “would represent the largest Building Trades jobs opportunity in the United States, and it would create more than 5,000 union jobs when it goes into operation.”

Gaming supporters had hoped to pass the bill during the legislative session that ended last week. It cleared the Senate but failed in the House. O’Malley and Busch have criticized Miller for attaching the gaming bill to a broader budget proposal. Miller denies that two were connected:

Miller told his colleagues this week that the two issues were not linked and that House budget negotiators engaged in “press stunts” to show that Senate negotiators were trying to tie a gambling bill to budget talks.

Lawmakers adjourned their session without approving a tax bill to pay for an increase in spending.

O’Malley is considering calling the legislature back into a special session to consider a tax bill to prevent $512-million in spending cuts from taking effect on July 1.

In fact, two special sessions are now being considered, one to handle revenue and the other to reconsider gaming:

“I think that both issues deserve a hearing and some resolution,” O’Malley said. “What made this session very disappointing and frustrating by the end was considering both of those issues at the same time.”

Special sessions would not be without complication, though, according to The Washington Post:

With the possibility of a pair of special sessions in coming months, fundraising rules for Maryland lawmakers have become a little more tricky to navigate.

Under Maryland law, legislators are prohibited from raising campaign money during their annual 90-day sessions. The law is silent on special sessions, but guidance by an ethics committee in 2008 suggests lawmakers treat them no differently because “the appearance of improper influence can be just as great.”

Pushing the gaming bill special session deeper into the summer “would allow time for a consultant study assessing the impact a Prince George’s casino might have on existing locations,” WaPo writes.


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