A Gambling Gamble

Senate Republicans today said no to the O’Malley slots plan:

Senate Republican leaders said that they do not support a special session of the General Assembly and that if Gov. Martin O’Malley calls for one anyway that the GOP caucus would block his slots proposal.

Sen. David Brinkley, the Senate minority leader, chided O’Malley for not releasing the details of his proposal to legalize slot machine gambling in Maryland before calling for a November special session. Brinkley said he and his colleagues would be open to a slots bill, however, when the General Assembly convenes for its annual three-month meeting, which begins in January.

“Part of our concern is that the Republican votes for slots were being taken for granted,” Brinkley said in an interview. “The whole package has been crafted without our input.”

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Presumably, the House Caucus is probably going to take a similar stance.

This is a calculated risk on the behalf of the Senate Caucus. During the Ehrlich Administration, the legislative Republicans were (along with Mike Miller) slots most ardent cheerleaders. Now, this has the potential to be seen as a course reversal for the sake of political posturing.

However, at the moment, this is really one of the few bullets the GOP has in our legislative arsenal. The fact of the matter is that Republican leadership in Annapolis wants a piece of the action on crafting this legislation. And O’Malley along with the legislative leadership, as they are hypocritically wont to do, have completely cut off Republican input in the name of crafting a “bipartisan bill.” One of the only ways Republicans can throw a wrench into the works is to unite together and vote no during the Special Session.

Of course, this could backfire. If the slots bill does pass notwithstanding GOP objections, then everybody will have played the fool. And if the failure of slots leads to higher taxes, the Democrats can blame Republicans for not supporting the slots bill.

That being said, it is a smart tactical move. Not only will it (hopefully) get GOP leadership to the table, it may throw the brakes onto any tax increases. If Mike Miller doesn’t get slots, I doubt that Administration will get their cherished tax hikes.


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