Special Session – A Gambling Session- Delegate Kathy Szeliga
Special Session – an activity devised to test the patience and long suffering of the members of the House of Delegates. This entire exercise has been an example of the disorganization and poor leadership in Annapolis.
The very important issue of expanding gambling should have been taken up during the regular 90 day session, either this past winter or next year. However, the Maryland General Assembly did finally vote in support of the gambling bill. The new casino in Prince George’s County will not come on line until 2017, Baltimore City in 2015 and Allegany County will not get table games before 2014. Clearly there was no emergency involved in this issue and absolutely no reason to rush this measure through in a couple of days.
Some highlights of the bill that passed:
- Opens up a 6th gambling location in Prince Georges County
- Opens all venues to full table gaming
- Currently, the casinos must close at 2 AM on weeknights and 4 AM on weekends. This measure rescinds the limited hours of the casinos and allows them to be open 24 hours a day – 365 days a year
- Tax breaks will be given to all six casino owners that other businesses do not get
I voted against this bill. I voted no because the process was wrong in rushing this huge change in policy through in a few short days. Citizens and interested parties did not have the proper amount of time to study the issue and let their legislators know of intended and unintended consequences. There was a work group that met in the spring to study this issue and they could not reach a consensus. (There were no voting Republicans in the workgroup – it was a handpicked group.) The work group did recommend that the legislature NOT be called into a special session. Yet, this issue was rammed through the General Assembly in a special session in the usual monopoly control fashion.
The promised financial windfall to the State from gambling will not materialize as promised. Looking back to the slots debate in 2005, analysts in Annapolis estimated that four slots venues would yield $1.047 Billion annually. This was so grossly overestimated, as the promise of slots and table games are overestimated today. In the end, the six fat cat casino owners will get triple the amount of money than the “children,” in the promised Education Trust Fund.
The bill passed with 71 votes, the exact number needed. The vote against this bill was bi-partisan. We agreed that there was no reason to rush this measure through the General Assembly in a special session, it needed a more thoughtful and thorough approach to the whole process.
Pit-bull bill dies in the Senate
I voted for Senate Bill 2, a measure that addressed the recent court decision that unfairly targets a single breed of dog, pit-bulls. SB 2 puts responsibility squarely in the hands of dog owners and eliminates any mention of a specific dog breed. My son owns a pitbull and she is a wonderful dog, not aggressive or mean. SB 2 passed unanimously out of the House of Delegates.
Unfortunately, the Senate refused to take up our amended bill and so it did not pass. Look for this issue to be revisited during the 2013 legislative session that begins on January 9, 2013.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Please keep them coming my way.
Friday, August 17, 2012
the Harford County Dagger: