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: