Eye Opener: Marylanders debate health care ruling

Elected officials, business owners and health care practitioners rushed to parse the Supreme Court’s upholdingThursday of much of the Affordable Care Act.

More on reaction from lawmakers later. But here’s a few other headlines today:

More on lobbyists’ earnings

With about $21.4 million earned by Maryland’s top legislative lobbyists, there’s quite a bit that I couldn’t fit into a story about those earnings in Thursday’s paper.

According to records published by the State Ethics Commission, 169 companies and organizations spent more than $50,000 on lobbying from Nov. 1 to April 30. Ninety-eight lobbyists earned at least $50,000 in the same span.

Not bad for six-months’ work.

Every organization that holds a slots license in Maryland — and one that remains the lone bidder for a Baltimore license — spent huge sums in Annapolis, from Penn National Gaming Inc.’s No. 1 ranking ($877,432.44) to Evitts Resort LLC’s ranking at No. 109 ($65,875.22). Those companies combined to spend $1.3 million on lobbying in the six-month period.

The Maryland Association of Realtors Inc. spent the fourth-most money ($443,117.03), much of it successfully used to prevent a budget provision that would have impacted mortgage-interest deductions.

The Maryland State Bar Association Inc. ranked 57th, spending $94,202 from November to April. Their staff lobbyist, Richard A. Montgomery III, was No. 80 among on the list of highest earners, making $60,366.

I could go on, but here’s a list of the top employers and a separate list of the highest-earning lobbyists.

Eye Opener: Lobbyists see earnings increase

Plenty of money changed hands in Annapolis this legislative session, as top lobbyists earned more than $21 million from Nov. 1 to April 30.

Much of that lobbying money was spent by — you guessed it — companies with ties to gambling.

Here’s a few non-gambling headlines around the state:

Eye Opener: O’Malley says special session chance is ’50-50′

Gov. Martin O’Malley told reporters in Ocean City Tuesday that there was still a “50-50″ chance that he would call a special session of the General Assembly.

“I would very much like to get the lingering issues around gaming resolved,” O’Malley told The Washington Post and others at a gathering of the Maryland Municipal League.

Here’s a few other headlines today:

- The Daily Record reports that with no special session, there is no urgency among members of a legislative task force reviewing the Court of Appeals’ pit bull ruling.

- The Frederick News-Post reports that county officials are trying to jump start work on a 173-acre technology park in Frederick.

- Patch.com reports that Baltimore County has hired law firm Venable LLP to aid in the county’s collection of $4.5 million owed by bankrupt RG Steel LLC.

Eye Opener: Labor unions lobby for National Harbor casino

The lobbying in Annapolis continues, as labor union leaders rallied yesterday to urge Gov. Martin O’Malley and the presiding officers of the General Assembly to reach a deal that would allow construction of a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

Here’s a few other headlines this morning:

Eye Opener: Gambling negotiations continue

As Gov. Martin O’Malley House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch try to reach a gambling agreement, some casino operators are losing money.

Here’s a few other headlines around the Web:

Some gambling group ideas piqued lottery director’s interest

Stephen L. Martino, director of the Maryland State Lottery Agency, says his job is to implement gambling policy as he’s instructed to do so by the governor, General Assembly and voters.

But a few ideas left on the table when the work group considering expanded gambling failed to reach consensus this week were interesting to the lottery director, including the proposed formation of a gambling commission with a professional director.

“It was very unclear to me,” Martino said. “I was trying to get some information about that and every time I talked to someone it seemed like that meant a little something different. People said, well, it’s still going to be at the lottery but maybe with another commission kind of attached here.

“That was one of those things I think was really going to have to be fleshed out in legislation … It got my attention.”

Martino also said it might not be a bad idea to shift ownership of slot machines to the private operators. The state currently owns or leases all machines.

“It was to promote transparency and integrity in the gaming program,” Martino said. “We can easily do that, however, with other infrastructure we have, namely the central computer system, the fact that we have agents of the Maryland Lottery who are at the casinos 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, I don’t know that the ownership of the machines in and of itself necessarily promotes or enhances transparency and integrity.”

Not all delegates oppose a Prince George’s casino

Del. Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George's (Photo: Maryland State Archives)

The gambling debate appears alive in Maryland, which must leave at least one member of the House of Delegates feeling better.

Though delegates who were allowed a vote in the work group were unanimous in voting against the majority plan to allow a Prince George’s County casino and lower the tax rate on slot machines, Del. Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George’s, was a supporter of the casino throughout the process.

Davis, chairman of the Economic Matters Committee, said he supported the House position to vote against the work group’s majority recommendation. But he implied he did so somewhat reluctantly.

“I had different opinions than I think, many,” Davis said. “That happens from time to time when you’re on a team. I have no qualms with the House’s position.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Thursday that there is still room for negotiation on that position.

Eye Opener: Gambling still on the table

The gambling issue may not be dead, as Gov. Martin O’Malley lashed out at House of Delegates leadership and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said a compromise could still be reached.

Meanwhile, the lottery commission decided a Caesars Entertainment Corp.-led group was qualified to receive a slots license despite the questionable history of one investor, setting up action by the slots commission.

Eye Opener: Gambling work group fails to reach consensus

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s work group considering expanded gambling couldn’t reach consensus Wednesday, likely preventing any special session on the topic this summer.

Here’s what else is in the news today: