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Senate sets schedule for special session

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller plans a get-'em-in, get-'em-out schedule to speed gambling  expansion legislation through his chamber during the special session Gov.Martin O'Malleyhad called for Aug. 9. Miller also urged senators to hold down their expenses by driving home in the evening instead of staying at hotels.

In a memo to senators, Miller said the Senate will convene at 11:30 a.m. that day and will quickly adjourn to let the Budget & Taxation Committee hold a hearing and vote on a bill, which is expected to allow a casino in Prince George's county and to permit table games there and at already licensed slots parlors in the state.

Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, told senators he expects to push the bill through the amendment process and to bring it up for a final vote the next day, a Friday. Miller said he expect the bill to be similar to the recommendations drawn up by an O'Malley-created work group that studied the issue in June. He described those recommendations as "not significantly different" from the provisions of bills passed by the Senate before.

There is no mention in Miller's memo of meetings beyond Friday, but Sen. Ed DeGrange -- a veteran Democrat from Anne Arundel County -- said he expects the Senate to assemble at least one more time the next week to formally adjourn.

That accelerated schedule could be dependent on whether the House of Delegates amends the Senate bill, a move that would force the Senate to consider whether to accept those amendments. If the two chambers were to disagree over the terms of a bill, the special session could drag on longer than the three days legislative leaders had hoped it would require.

Mindful of the public's sensitivity to the cost of holding a special session, which has been estimated at $20,000 a day, Miller urged senators "to travel home in the evenings if it is reasonable to do so." He said approval for hotel expenses would  be given case-by-case for senators who have to travel long distances.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, said the House has yet to set its schedule for the session.







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