Members of the House of Delegates weren't called to the floor for a debate on the controversial gambling expansion bill until 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, although legislators had been asked to be back by 2 p.m.
Welcome to what for many Harford County legislators, at least, has been the exasperating second special legislative session of 2012.
"Yesterday [Monday] we were supposed to return to the floor at 4 p.m. and we never returned to the floor and we left Annapolis after 9 p.m.," wrote a frustrated Del. Susan McComas Tuesday afternoon. "I must admit that it is now rope a dope time."
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Harford, MD, USA
Annapolis, MD, USA
Although the Senate in just two days last week was able to read, make amendments and vote on the legislation that would add a sixth casino in the state, in Prince George's County, and add table games to existing slots casinos in the state – including Hollywood Casino in Perryville - the House is working at a much slower pace.
Monday night a House committee approved tax breaks for some Maryland casinos 13-7, more so than what was asked for in Gov. Martin O'Malley's original version of the gambling bill.
'Stuck in limbo'
Sen. Barry Glassman sympathized with House members, saying they have been "stuck in limbo" the last few days.
Glassman, a Republican who represents the northern half of the county, believes the special session will end by Wednesday night, no matter what happens with amendments to the gambling bill, because the senate president "kind of wants" the session to be over and done with.
After the House has voted, the bill will go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
"It's a do or die move," Glassman said Tuesday. "I think [Wednesday] will be the last day either way if the bills don't move."
The House still had a lot of work to do Tuesday afternoon.
The senator said there were 56 pages of House amendments to go through and vote on.
Glassman offered his own amendment Friday that, had it passed, would have allowed slot machines in the county's American Legions and VFWs. The amendment failed 19-23 and, as a result, Glassman voted against the gambling bill on the Senate floor.
"it's giving more to the casino operators," he said of the latest House version of the bill. "It's a free give-away to Baltimore City and Prince George's County."
Pit bull legislation
Though gambling was supposed to be the main reason for this special session, going on at the same time is the debate over pit bull legislation.
"I think that the House Judiciary Committee produced a good bill in response to the Solesky decision that overturned the Maryland Common Law regarding dog bites," explained McComas, a Republican who represents the Bel Air and Abingdon areas. "The Justices in the Court of Appeals determined that pit bulls were inherently dangerous dogs and the dog's owners as well as landlords were strictly liable for the damages incurred by pit bulls."
The House's bill, she continued, attempts to modify the effect of this decision, finding "strict liability for owners that allow their dogs to run at large outside of their control."
The bill would also exempt landlords, condominium associations, housing cooperatives or homeowners associations, kennels, veterinary hospitals, units of state or local government that conduct animal control, shelters, dog walkers, keepers of dogs or pet shops from liability.
"The House bill reaffirms the civil defenses of contributory negligence, provocation, criminal intent and assumption of risk," McComas wrote. "The bill has a sunset provision of September 30, 2013. This keeps the General Assembly's feet to the fire to continue to work on this issue in the next regular legislative session for the protection of animals, as well as the public."