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Annapolis Special Session notes

November 30, 1999|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

GOP pledge-islators

Republicans have supported attempts in recent years, under a Republican governor, to legalize slot machines in Maryland.

But when Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, seemed poised to call a special session and make slots part of a $2 billion revenue package, Senate Republicans pulled back.

With an opportunity for leverage, they pledged not to vote for slots bills during the special session.

For some, the pledge didn't last.

On Tuesday, two separate slots-related bills were approved by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, allowing them to reach the full Senate.

One bill called for a referendum on legalizing slots. The other spelled out locations and numbers of slot machines.

Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, voted in favor of both bills.

Munson said Thursday that he initially agreed to the GOP's de facto slots boycott as a strategy to cancel the special session.

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But once the session started, he said, his responsibility was to his constituents to support a plan that will help them.

"If there's not slots," he said, "we're going to have much higher taxes."

'Asp not ...'

House Republicans have periodically jabbed ? OK, slammed ? the Democratic majority and governor over the direction of the special session, especially the various proposed tax increases.

On Thursday, through the imagery of trains, darkness and reptiles, the GOP caucus issued a press release calling for a halt to the session.

"This special session is careening out of control like a runaway train," said Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell, R-Calvert/St. Mary's. "We need to put the brakes on now before the citizens of Maryland are broadsided by any further assaults on their wallet."

"Where is the sunshine in this process?" said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, the minority whip. "What other snakes are hiding (in) the tall grass of this package waiting to bite (the) Maryland taxpayer?"

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