Gov. Martin O'Malley will not call lawmakers back to Annapolis on July 9 as he had originally planned, but he intends to announce Friday that he will continue trying to hammer out a deal to expand Maryland's gambling program, according to an official close to the governor.
O'Malley said on Tuesday that his time line for calling a special session had "slipped" after a work group he convened to hash out details on the issue failed to reach a consensus. He said that he would wait until the end of this week to make the final call on a summer session.
Much of the governor's focus this week has been on the aftermath of a rare derecho storm that plowed through the state, leaving hundreds of thousands out of power. Still, he met with House Speaker Michael E. Busch Tuesday evening to get a read on where House leaders stand on adding a new casino.
O'Malley said he gathered critical information from that conversation, and planned to personally reach out to some lawmakers. He's also said he will pitch expanding gambling to House Republicans as a way of keeping taxes down.
The Maryland Senate has approved a bill authorizing gambling at National Harbor in Prince George's County and allowing table games at all of the state's casinos. The House, which has traditionally been more skeptical of gambling, did not pass the bill. And House lawmakers assigned to the governor's work group balked at the last minute, objecting to a proposed tax cut to casino owners.
Major changes to the gambling program would have to go to the voters on the November ballot. If lawmakers fail to act this year, they will have to wait until 2014 for another chance. All ballot language must be approved by Aug. 20.
The governor's announcement is likely to do little to relieve tensions in Annapolis. Supporters of a sixth casino have launched television ads and engaged supportive unions to make their case, and will probably continue to do so if there is a chance the legislature comes back.
On the other hand, rounding up 188 lawmakers will become increasingly difficult as the summer wears on. They've already been back to Annapolis for one special session in May and had blocked off next week to return to work.