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Time running out for gambling bills

April 08, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

ANNAPOLIS - Legislation that would make significant changes to Washington County's tip jar gaming law is coming up against the Maryland General Assembly's deadline for approval.

The two bills must be passed by Monday, the final day of the annual 90-day session, or wait another year.

Several county lawmakers say they're not overly concerned about that possibility, as the bills are part of hundreds of pieces of legislation that await final approval as part of the General Assembly's annual last-minute rush.

"That's just the way we do business around here," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

But Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said the gambling legislation and many other bills may get caught behind a "tremendous paper jam" of bills now before the legislature.

"I think it's just a matter of getting through a very crowded bill process," Poole said.

On Wednesday, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, chairman of the county's legislative delegation, made his case for the legislation before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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One bill would require fraternal and social clubs to funnel all of their required charitable donations raised from tip jars through the county Gaming Commission in cash. The legislation would increase the Gaming Commission's distribution to nonprofit organizations, fire and rescue companies and charities from an estimated $1.1 million this year to $2.45 million next year.

Supporters said the legislation also would save money and remove an administrative headache the Gaming Commission must go through in determining what qualifies as an in-kind contribution.

"What we're asking for here is to make it simpler," Donoghue told the committee.

The second piece of legislation repeals the tip jar regulations' July 1, 1999, expiration date. Both bills already have been approved by the House of Delegates.

The Senate committee only had a few questions about the bills, but Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, panel chairman, joked that the county keeps trying to amend its gambling law.

"I told you guys that this bill you passed (before) ... would cause you nothing but trouble. Why don't you just outlaw tip jars?" Baker said.

Donoghue said the county was merely improving the existing law.

After the hearing, Donoghue said he was confident there was enough support to approve the bills, but he will keep lobbying for their passage.

"Obviously, the next couple of days I'm going to be talking to everybody on the committee," he said.

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