A Marcellus Shale drilling tower in Moreland Township, Pa. (Photo: Ruhrfisch)
By offering a second special legislative session to deal exclusively with gambling, Gov. Martin O’Malley tried to remove the controversial issue from the debate on a revenue package that could prevent the “doomsday” budget cuts to popular state programs and services.
That decision may just be the flagship of an overall strategy that could be executed by O’Malley and assembly leaders.
Del. Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery, said she was unlikely to introduce legislation in any special session that could create a funding mechanism for a study into the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
“The whole goal is to get in and out and be controversy-free in the special sessions,” Mizeur said.
Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial drilling technique by which natural gas is extracted from mile-deep deposits of rock-encased gas. Garrett County and a sliver of Allegany County have the deposits.
A bill that would have had natural gas companies pay for the study through a fee on land leased by those companies was never voted out of a Senate committee after it was approved by the House of Delegates.
Many lawmakers — and O’Malley — have blamed the budget package’s failure in the waning hours of the regular session on disagreement over legislation that could have dropped a billion-dollar casino at the National Harbor development in Prince George’s County.
This time around, it appears distractions want to be kept to a minimum.