Eye Opener: O’Malley’s March books a gig

A group that advocates for pedestrian-friendly communities announced last week that Baltimore had the ninth-best public transportation system. Do you agree?

While you ponder that question, here’s a few headlines from around the state:

Under Armour CEO may have horse in Preakness

Tiger Walk (Photo: Maryland Jockey Club)

Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, may be entering Maryland horse racing’s biggest stage.

Tiger Walk, a colt at Plank’s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, could take part in the 137th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, the Maryland Jockey Club said. The race is slated for May 19.

The colt has had a third place and two fourth place finishes in three 2012 races.

Horse racing purses receive funding through revenue from state slots. More than $8 million has been allocated for that purpose in fiscal 2012, 7 percent of the nearly $125 million the state has received this year from its two slots casinos in Perryville and Ocean Downs in Berlin.

Professional football in Hagerstown?

Gov. Martin O’Malley said this week that the state could help pay for a new stadum in Hagerstown where the Suns, the Washington Nationals‘ minor league baseball affiliate, would play.

But the town may be ready for some football, too.

The Herald-Mail reports that a professional football team in Chambersburg, Pa., could play in a new multipurpose stadium across the state line. The towns are only about 25 minutes apart.

The Chambersburg Cardinals play at Chambersburg Area Senior High School now, but the team’s business director told the Herald-Mail that moving to a private facility would allow the team to sell alcohol and conduct more pre- and post-game activities.

O’Malley suggested earlier this week that the state could help pay for the new stadium. State Comptroller Peter Franchot also showed support for building a new stadium this month.

Keeping the Suns in Hagerstown — and maybe attracting the Cardinals — are not the only professional sports interests of the state.

An item in the fiscal 2013 budget gives $175,000 to the Maryland Stadium Authority so it can study building a stadium for the D.C. United professional soccer team in Baltimore.

Eye Opener: Gambling, transportation and ‘doomsday’

Who knows what’s in store for the future of gambling in Maryland. The present is coming into clearer focus, though.

The Daily Record and others reported that the license for a slots casino at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Allegany County was awarded by the state slots commission on Thursday.

Here’s a few other headlines this morning:

Baltimore slots still on pace for June commission decision

After awarding the license for a slots casino at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Allegany County, slots commission Chairman Donald C. Fry said Baltimore’s may not be far behind.

Fry, also president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said the Maryland State Lottery Agency is still conducting its background check into a group led by Caesars Entertainment Corp. Once the background investigation is complete — probably in May — the commission would then review the agency’s report and the group’s finances.

That sets up the chance for a decision on the license in June, Fry said.

If approved, the license would be created in an air of uncertainty. A special legislative session could be called in August to discuss the addition of a sixth state slots license, for Prince George’s County. During the regular legislative session, a bill that would create a sixth license also allowed for table games to be added at every state casino. Both measures would have faced final approval in a voter referendum.

Caesars previously said they would support the bill because table games would make a Baltimore casino more valuable. Fry said in March that the state should “keep an eye” on adding table games.

“When the legislature passed the law in Maryland [allowing slots], we weren’t surrounded by states with tables games, and now we are,” Fry said. “If we want to maintain an competitive edge, that’s something they need to keep an eye on. …We’re not saying do it.”

Eye Opener: Rocky Gap slots license could be awarded Thursday

The license for a slots parlor at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Allegany County could be awarded today, when the state slots commission meets at noon in Annapolis.

Meanwhile, MarylandReporter.com says districts that have already been awarded slots licenses — especially Baltimore City — complicate any discussion by the General Assembly about expanding gambling to Prince George’s County.

Here’s a few other headlines around the state:

Nothing controversial needed in special session, lawmaker says

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.

No public movement on special session

General Assembly leaders are still working out the parameters of a budget agreement that could bring 141 delegates and 47 senators back to Annapolis.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Monday that he would confer with his budget leadership team — led by Del. Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico and Worcester — to determine when lawmakers might be ready to return and pass a revenue package to fund the fiscal 2013 budget, to prevent some $500 million in spending cuts.

The Senate leadership team is believed to have already weighed in with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s. Miller wrote a letter to Busch and Gov. Martin O’Malley outlining the terms of a compromise on the revenue package. The Senate appears to be waiting for a counter offer.

O’Malley wants assembly leaders to come to Annapolis and hammer out a deal before bringing all of the members back for a $20,000-a-day special session.

Eye Opener: Two special sessions?

A group of reporters and their coffee cups waited nearly two hours Tuesday morning for Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch to emerge from the governor’s mansion with a budget accord and the announcement of a special session.

The accord didn’t happen — but in one way, it was a two-for-one deal.

The Daily Record and others are reporting that now there could be two special legislative sessions this summer.

Here’s a few other state headlines from the last day:

O’Malley suggests two special sessions

After leaving Annapolis Tuesday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley told reporters in Baltimore that two special sessions could be called — one in May and one in August.

The governor met with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch at 8:30 a.m. The trio did not hammer out a compromise, but O’Malley said gambling could be discussed in a second session later this summer.

Miller, who had little to say to reporters Tuesday, has previously said he wants to see a gambling expansion bill passed. Voters would have the final say in a fall referendum.

“We probably need to resolve this budget issue separate and apart from issues affecting the future of gaming in Maryland,” O’Malley said.