Table games could be OK’d by legislative committee on Friday

The last hurdle on the way to implementation of table games at Maryland casinos may be cleared by a General Assembly committee on Friday.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, said members of the panel will review and likely approve regulations that would govern black jack, poker, roulette and the like at Maryland’s commercial casinos.

The Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission approved the regulations over two meetings held in December and January. Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said the committee was rushing to vote on the regulations within the next 24 hours because Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County wants to start operating table games next week.

Pinsky said members of the committee might vote electronically and then announce their decision during Senate proceedings on Friday. House Chairman Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, also must have his half of the review panel vote on the regulations.

O’Malley, presiding officers to meet on transportation

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch at a bill signing ceremony last summer. (File Photo)

Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to meet with the presiding officers of the General Assembly on Thursday afternoon to discuss transportation revenue options.

An aide said it’s unclear whether O’Malley is ready to endorse a strategy that would raise money for roads, highways, bridges and mass transit projects.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, introduced a plan this month that he has called a “menu” of options, which includes a 3 percent tax on gasoline at the wholesale level, a 5-cent hike in the per-gallon fee and the establishment of regional taxing authorities in the Baltimore and suburban Washington, D.C., areas.

House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, is working with leaders in his chamber to devise a separate strategy that would raise between $500 and $600 million through statewide tax increases.

Miller has repeatedly said that a transportation revenue package will fail unless O’Malley puts his political weight behind a proposal. The governor has been reluctant to introduce his own plan after suggestions he made last year that involved increasing the sales tax or applying the levy to gasoline purchases were discarded by legislative leaders.

Eye Opener: Open meeting bills advance

Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Thursday, as the state Senate’s gun control debate continues:

Senate passes Internet lottery ban; will House?

The Senate quietly passed legislation this week that would prevent what some have called an enormous electronic expansion of gambling, but the bill seems unlikely to move much further along the the legislative process.

The resounding, 46-0 vote to approve Senate Bill 272 came on Monday night, after the Budget and Taxation Committee amended the bill to remove its “emergency” tag and simplify some language. The bill would make it illegal for the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to sell lottery tickets online.

The bill, cosponsored by half of the Senate’s budget panel, was drafted in response to a plan unveiled by the state’s gambling regulators last fall that would have created an online marketplace of lottery games that could be purchased and played from any device with an Internet connection.

Brick-and-mortar retailers immediately opposed the bill, saying it would hurt their business. Gov. Martin O’Malley subsequently ordered the Lottery to stop its work on the Internet project.

The Senate bill seeks to prevent the agency from taking the issue up again. Lawmakers say the Lottery has too much power, and should not be able to launch the “iLottery” program unless the General Assembly allows.

The bill has been assigned to the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee, but powerful members of the panel don’t appear interested in stripping the Lottery of any regulatory authority. A hearing has not been scheduled.

Eighteen other states already have some form of Internet lottery, are in the process of implementing one or are considering one. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that legalized online gambling.

Eye Opener: Businesses wary of paid sick leave bill

The Maryland State House (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Wednesday:

The Eye on Annapolis Podcast

The Eye on Annapolis Podcast returns with an update on gun control and the death penalty.

The Daily Record’s Steve Lash joins Alex and me for analysis on last week’s Senate committee hearing and a look ahead to what could happen as the full Senate debates two of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s top legislative priorities.


Eye Opener: Virginia transportation bill could spur Maryland movement

Traffic in Alexandria, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Tuesday, the day the state Senate will begin its debate on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control bill:

Public wants fracking studies, but who should make final decision?

A natural gas well site in Burlington, Pa. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

Updated: Feb. 25, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.

A new poll suggests more than three-quarters of Maryland residents want the General Assembly to ensure studies are completed before hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is allowed in the state.

But those asked did not agree on who they would trust to make the final decision on whether to allow fracking, according to the poll commissioned by environmental advocacy group Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

While 78 percent of the 800 randomly-selected registered voters polled by Annapolis-based OpinionWorks said the legislature should require environmental and safety studies before fracking is allowed, only 48 percent said the government should make the final decision, followed by environmental groups (31 percent) and oil and gas companies (9 percent).

A task force convened by Gov. Martin O’Malley is already studying fracking and there is a de-facto moratorium on issuing drilling permits to energy companies. But some state lawmakers — led by Del. Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County — want to give the moratorium force of law.

“Marylanders expect us to be pragmatic in our approach,” Mizeur said.

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Eye Opener: Beretta on its way way out?

Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control legislation is expected to be debated by the state Senate this week. (File Photo)

Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Monday:

O’Malley appoints Harper to fill Harrison’s seat in House

Nina R. Harper has been appointed to fill the seat of former Del. Hattie N. Harrison in the House of Delegates.

Harper has been executive director of the Oliver Community Association and the Oliver Economic Development Corp. since 2004. She’ll represent Baltimore’s 45th district on the city’s East Side.

Gov. Martin O’Malley announced the appointment on Friday, accepting the nomination of Baltimore’s Democratic Central Committee.

“Nina Harper has spent many years working to improve the opportunities and quality of life for members of the Oliver community,” O’Malley said in a statement. “With experience as a community activist and working with members of the business community and local and state government, I am confident Nina Harper will serve the people of Baltimore city with distinction.”

Harrison died last month at the age of 84. She was elected to the House in 1973 and by 1979, she was made chair of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, a post she held through 2012. Harrison was the first Africa-American woman to chair a standing committee of the General Assembly.