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Maryland lawmakers wage final battles

April 11, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — State lawmakers waged their final battles Monday as this year’s legislative session wound down and all bills neared their fate.  

During an afternoon Senate session, Sen. David R. Brinkley, R-Carroll/Frederick, launched a filibuster as he tried to fight a new version of a bill granting in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.

When the Senate voted to agree with a House amendment that made the bill more lenient, Brinkley said, “I don’t like the bill, and, therefore, Mr. President, I don’t know what else to do but to just keep talking on this bill.”

Brinkley said he bought a book Sunday — “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall. (The book is about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who run hundreds of miles without rest.)

“I was about five pages into it and I only have about 300 more to go,” Brinkley said, as he started to read aloud from the book.

As filibusters go, it was short. Brinkley stopped after about seven minutes when the Senate reversed course and decided not to accept the House amendment.

Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort

A bill sponsored by Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George’s, would increase the licensee’s share of the revenue from possible slot machines at Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort in Allegany County, Md.

The legislature is trying to make it more attractive for someone to buy the lodge from the state and to operate slot machines there.

The Allegany County delegation, which Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany chairs, sponsored a House version of the bill.

The Senate version, which passed the Senate on March 26, attracted debate on the House floor Monday.

After awhile, though, Myers spoke up and called for a vote, cutting off debate.

The bill passed, 117-18.

Alcohol sales tax

For several hours Saturday, the House debated a bill that increases the sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent.

When the bill was back for final approval Monday, lawmakers picked up the discussion again.

Trying to move things along, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, made a motion for a final vote on the issue — prompting cries of outrage from delegates who wanted to keep the debate going.

Several delegates went on to argue their points on the motion to vote and again as they explained their final votes.

Donoghue walked out of the chamber and into the House lounge for a while, where other delegates relaxed while their colleagues extended the debate.

“None of this debate’s changing anybody’s mind,” Donoghue said.

A proposal earlier in the session would have raised the tax on alcohol, with the revenue going to health care and to help people with developmental disabilities.

More than half of the revenue from the new bill, with the higher sales tax, would go to school construction funding, including $9 million apiece for Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and Montgomery County.

Another $750,000 would be split among five Western Maryland counties, including Washington County.

The Developmental Disabilities Administration would get $15 million, much less than what was proposed in the original alcohol-tax bill.

Monday night, Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, proposed an amendment to lower the sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 3 percent, in hopes of stimulating sales, but it was defeated.

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