Back to Annapolis (Special Session #3)Written by Johnny O on July 28, 2012
It has recently been announced that Governor O’Malley will reconvene the Maryland General Assembly for another special legislative session to begin on August 9. For residents keeping track, this represents the third session outside of our regular time in Annapolis in less than a year-long span.
Let me be clear that I believe it is the responsibility of the legislature and our administration to do the work we are called to do in the usual order of business; that is, during our regular 90-day session. While there are extraordinary circumstances that are worthy (or, as was the case with Congressional redistricting this year, absolutely necessary) of calling a special session, it is my contention that these should be rare occurrences. That being said, once a session is called, I have a responsibility to ensure that the interests of our communities are represented as decisions are being made.
While no official proposal has been advanced at the time of this writing, the two major issues include an expansion to include table games, as well as consideration of adding a sixth site in Prince George’s County to draw from nearby Washington, DC and northern Virginia, neither of which currently have casino locations. I also wanted to let residents know about what I will be looking for in order for me to consider supporting a bill to expand gaming in the state of Maryland.
Any gaming proposal should be a net economic benefit to the residents of the state of Maryland. Revenue generated should be used in conjunction with strategic cuts to ensure that the state does not need to continue to rely upon tax increases to keep its budget in balance. Legislation should also limit reductions in the tax rate of casino operators. While it may be necessary, for example, to consider lower rates at the Anne Arundel and Baltimore City sites to compensate for a significant market share loss from a sixth site, it is unclear how lowering rates for a location in Perryville or on the Eastern Shore is necessary.
What is clear is that the state can benefit from a thoughtful expansion of its gaming program. While I would have preferred to have considered such an expansion during a regular session, I will continue to work to ensure that any proposal makes our gaming program sustainable and competitive with surrounding states in the Mid-Atlantic – and that there is a meaningful financial benefit to Maryland residents, and not to casino owners and operators.
Finally, I wanted to be clear that, while attending this session, I will be seeking no reimbursements that could add to the cost of the legislature’s time in Annapolis. This is replicating the pledge I made and kept during the May special session, where I likewise refused to participate in costing the taxpayers of this state any additional money during our time in the state capital.
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End of Session