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Ehrlich enlists Taylor's help to sell slots bill

February 27, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland's Republican governor has embraced the help of former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. to muster support for his slots bill.

But the alliance is not receiving a warm reception among some lawmakers, especially Republicans who worked to defeat Taylor in the last election.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, questioned how much credibility Taylor will have now that he's on the outside.

"I think it's just him trying to interject himself back into the game," Shank said. "I think perhaps Cas (Taylor) needs to realize who won this election and remove himself from the debate."

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Taylor offered to help with the bill over the weekend when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. visited Cumberland, said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell.

Ehrlich has accepted Taylor's help, but his role has not been determined. Taylor will not be paid, Fawell said.

Taylor likely would play a role in getting the legislation passed rather than in helping to craft the bill, Fawell said.

Taylor, a Democrat, confirmed that he has talked to Ehrlich about slots.

Ehrlich has proposed 10,500 slot machines at four racetracks, including a proposed track in Allegany County just over the Washington County border.

The Ehrlich administration hopes to announce this week his plan on how to divide the profits between the state, the racetracks and the local governments where the tracks are located.

Track owners said an earlier proposal giving them 25 percent was not enough.

Ehrlich's proposal has been met with resistance from Taylor's successor, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel.

Busch said he welcomes Taylor's input.

"Certainly he's a sage individual who has always been very statesmanlike. He's been like a big brother to me. Maybe he can come up with ideas," he said.

Busch noted that Ehrlich was still working out the details of his proposal 50 days into the 90-day legislative session.

"It would be an irony that the governor would have to call on the former speaker after his party went to great lengths to defeat the speaker," Busch said.

Minority Leader Alfred W. Redmer Jr., R-Baltimore, said he hopes Taylor can collect some votes through the relationships he built during his 28 years in the legislature.

"As a supporter of slots, I hope it works," Redmer said. "The (Republican) Caucus wants our governor to be successful, wants our agenda to succeed."

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., the Clear Spring Republican who defeated Taylor, said Taylor's role in the debate may be smaller than some perceive.

"Ehrlich has to look everywhere he can for support. Personally, I think it's the wrong move on (Ehrlich's) part," Myers said.

During the campaign, Taylor said he supported slot machines at racetracks with voter approval.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, has proposed legislation to take the issue to referendum.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a key supporter of slots, said a referendum won't help raise money for education this year.

"That's not leadership. That's followership," he said.

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