Slots backers rue folly of Taylor defeat

April 05, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Both Republicans and Democrats in the House of Delegates have had to drink the Kool-Aid of higher taxes and fees this session, lawmakers pointed out in last week's Legislative Follies.

Republicans were induced to vote for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's transportation and sewer fee increases while Democrats had to swallow House Speaker Michael E. Busch's $670 million tax package.

Both issues are unresolved with a week to go before the session ends, along with slots.

During the follies' Legislative News Network skit, the irreverent anchors pointed out that Republicans sabotaged themselves when they targeted for defeat former House speaker and slots supporter Casper R. Taylor Jr. in the 2002 election.

Apparently, Republicans thought the anti-slots Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, was a better bet to get the bill passed, they said.

Views differ on Rocky Gap

ANNAPOLIS - Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort - important tourist draw or white elephant?

The public got two different answers on the same day in Annapolis last week about the $54 million state-built resort near Cumberland, Md.

Rocky Gap "made Western Maryland a premier tourist destination," according to the program for the unveiling of a portrait of Casper R. Taylor Jr., former House speaker.

But a few hours earlier, when asked about Rocky Gap during a slot machine hearing, Business and Economic Development Secretary Aris Melissaratos called it a "substantial drain on the state's investment" that would be helped by slots at a nearby track proposed to be built at Little Orleans.

There was no dispute, however, about Taylor's devotion to the economic success of Western Maryland.

"I don't know any area of the state that asked more from a native son, and I don't know of any other area of the state that received more from a native son," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said during the unveiling ceremony.

Helmet bill fight is nearing

ANNAPOLIS - Get ready for a fight on the Senate floor this week on Maryland's motorcycle helmet law.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved a bill Friday allowing riders 21 and older to go without a helmet, as long as they have two years of experience or have completed a safety course.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John J. Hafer, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, was approved 7-4 by the committee.

Committee Chairman Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, predicted the bill would be killed on the Senate floor, as it has been in previous years.

Sewer fee for bay in limbo

ANNAPOLIS - The fate of a $30-a-year sewer fee for Chesapeake Bay cleanup still is in limbo with a week to go in the legislative session.

Political observers thought it would be the easiest of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's initiatives to get through the pro-environment and Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly.

But Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore, said last week that she's holding the so-called flush tax bill until Ehrlich can get support from the Republican Caucus.

"I think we need a plunger," she said.

Ex-mayor on gaming panel

ANNAPOLIS - The former mayor of Hancock has been appointed to the Washington County Gaming Commission.

Washington County delegates named Ralph Wachter to serve on the commission, which distributes tip jar gambling profits to charity.

Wachter was mayor from 1993 to 1997 and also has served on the Maryland State Board of Elections.

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