He went on: "This is the time. They really need us. … If everything falls apart we can say we got three new high schools. We got a hospital. We got a brand new arena."

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — in Annapolis for the second time that day — stepped into the conversation with her pitch, trying to convince delegates on the merits of the gambling bill.

The legislation, which would also clear the way for table games like poker in Baltimore, would let the city's casino developer create "an entertainment hub" off Russell Street. If lawmakers accept the status quo, the new casino will be just "a slots barn," she said.

The meeting broke up — and members headed back to the House floor, where they continued voting.

Later Monday evening, an effort to secure the Baltimore County delegation's votes for gambling led to a call for the members of the House Ways and Means Committee members to leave the floor. They needed to vote on a controversial bill that would allow some members of the county school board to be elected, rather than appointed by the governor.

It was another hotly contested issue that was considered settled and dead for the year, but was now again in play.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Sheila Hixson had said firmly that she wouldn't let the bill out of her committee. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz strongly opposed it, believing that an elected school board wouldn't be as diverse as one that was appointed, and Hixson wasn't going to interfere.

But leaders of the 23-member Baltimore County delegation desperately wanted the bill. They saw an opening.

"There was a sentiment that people, members of the delegation, were inclined to be supportive of the gambling bill, said Del. John Olszewski Jr., the delegation chairman. "But they wanted to see some action on this local bill."

The Ways and Means Committee approved the school board bill, sending it to the House floor for a final vote, shortly before midnight. But — like the gambling and tax bills — it never got a vote before the gavel dropped to adjourn.

Much of the city's deal collapsed then, too. Though delegates had won approval of legislation containing the convention center study, the school bonding authority was lost with the budget deal.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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