Annapolis notes

March 20, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

Debating slots in 2006 is just horsing around

It's been a foregone conclusion that measures to legalize slot machines in Maryland would go nowhere again this year, mainly because of the elections later this year. The issue is just too big and too controversial

Still, a number of bills were introduced - including Gov. Robert Ehrlich's fourth offering in four years - and the House Ways and Means Committee dutifully devoted several hours last week to hearing the sponsors' presentations. But while several people showed up for the hearings, gone were the throngs that spilled over into the corridors in years past.

Many of the bills specify that slot machines would operate at the state's horse racing tracks because, the sponsors argue, legalizing slots at the tracks would help the state's ailing horse industry and help them compete with tracks in neighboring states - such as the one in Charles Town, W.Va. Among them was a bill sponsored by Del. Galen Clagett, D-Frederick.


In presenting his bill Thursday, Clagett was realistic about its fate.

"You might say I'm here to beat a dead horse," he observed.

A gamble on bingo

Among the many gaming bills offered in the General Assembly is one that will let Carroll County senior citizens play billiards, cards and bingo in senior centers - legally.

Seems the kindly grandparents had been breaking the law by engaging in small-stakes gambling without state approval.

But before deciding how he would vote on expanding gaming in Carroll County, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, wanted to know what else the seniors had been doing to hurt Maryland's gambling interests.

"Do the senior centers ever organize bus trips to Charles Town?" he asked.

"I can't answer that," replied Del. Nancy Stocksdale, R-Carroll.

No exchanges, no returns

It was a fairly routine matter when Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, presented a local bill to let the county sheriff extend probation from one year to two for new deputies to the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Then Del. John Arnick, D-Baltimore County, wondered whether the bill should be expanded a bit.

"Has there been any consideration of a two-year trial period for delegates from Washington County?" he asked.

"You can consider that as an amendment," Shank replied as other committee members chuckled. "Perhaps it could apply to other delegates as well."

Honesty might be the best policy

As the General Assembly grinds toward the end of the session, introducing new bills requires special consideration by the respective legislative bodies.

So Del. James Malone, D-Baltimore County, had to explain to the full House why the delegates should let him introduce his bill to improve safety for highway construction workers.

"Honestly, we thought the bill was in, it wasn't, now we're putting the bill in," Malone said.

"That's an honest presentation," replied House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

But in a Kerry-esque move to tease Malone a little, several delegates pushed their red buttons to vote against introducing the bill before switching to their green buttons to vote for it.

"Honesty doesn't pay," Busch concluded.

Ultimately, the House voted unanimously to let Malone introduce the bill, which is now awaiting its fate in the House Rules Committee.

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