Focus on legislation to expand gambling and overturn a controversial Court of Appeals ruling on pit bulls shifts to the House of Delegates.
A House Ways and Means subcommittee will meet Saturday to discuss legislation that would open Maryland casinos to table games and could possibly legalize a sixth casino in Prince George's County if voters approve the law in a referendum vote in November.
The Senate adopted four amendments to the bill including a $500 annual license fee per table game that would go to a gambling addiction fund and requiring that one member of the gaming commission come from a jurisdiction with a video lottery facility.
A number of the 23 amendments rejected by the Senate involved earmarking parts of the money to roll back tax increases passed in May, toll increases and environmental funds.
"When you go home, after this whole thing is over you're going to get one question from the cynics: How on earth could you raise our taxes in May and give multi-millionaires tax breaks. How could you do that?," said Sen. Jim Brochin, a Towson Democrat who sponsored an amendment to use gaming proceeds to roll back tax increases. "Pass this amendment and you won't have to answer that question. This is so much the right thing to do."
In each case, the Senate leaders said such changes would hurt the state's ability to eliminate a projected $500 million budget deficit.
"I'm very sympathetic toward the amendment however I don't think we can set a precedent by sending money to worthy causes," said Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. "Once we go down that road how can we deny anybody?"
The Senate approved the amended bill by a 28-14 vote.
The Senate also passed a lightly amended version of a bill overturning a Court of Appeals ruling that declared pit bulls inherently dangerous dogs.
The fate of the bill, which was passed by a 41-1 vote Friday, is .
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on four bills, including one identical to the Senate bill, Friday. The sticking point for some delegates is the issue of strict liability for dog owners for any dog bite regardless of breed.
Sen. Joseph Getty, a Republican who represents Carroll and northern Baltimore Counties, was the lone vote against the Senate bill. Passage in the House is less certain, he said.
"That bill is going to take a different path," said Getty, speaking of the House debate and vote scheduled for Monday.
Sen. Brian Frosh, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and sponsor of the Senate Bill, shared Getty's view of an uncertain future for the legislation.
"This is the best we could do. So, we thought OK, we will give it a shot to get it done in this truncated environment," Frosh said. "If it gets real twisted and complex, I think it will probably unravel because nobody is planning to spend next week here."
Annapolis Patch Local Editor Anna Staver contributed to this article.