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Under the Dome: Switched vote changes outlook for state's attorney bill

Anne Arundel County's House and Senate delegations nearly agreed to legislation eliminating an automatic salary increase for the county's state's attorney - an agreement that would have greatly boosted the bill's chances of passage.

But nearly doesn't count at the General Assembly. And one hastily changed vote will.

At Friday morning's House delegation meeting, legislators approved an amended bill to do away with the automatic increase and boost the state's attorney's salary from $165,551 in 2014 to $175,000 in 2015.

The salary would stay that way until the next election year.

Later on Friday, when the Senate delegation met, Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, proposed an amendment to make the Senate bill the same.

But Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, proposed to raise the state's attorney's salary in increments from $165,551 in 2014 to $177,000 four years later. Astle also proposed a car for the state's attorney.

Simonaire is the sponsor of the proposal in the Senate and said he worked to get the county government to agree to the proposal that passed the House. He told his fellow senators they should approve his amendment.

He said the county government may not agree to Astle's proposal because of the cost of giving the state's attorney a car.

In the end, Simonaire and Sens. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton, voted for Simonaire's proposal. And so - to the evident shock of the two Republicans - did Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-College Park.

So Simonaire's proposal won, 3-2, and the House and Senate delegations have agreed on the same bill, right?

Wrong.

The three Democrats in the five-member Senate delegation usually vote with each other, often collaborating to kill county bills passed by the Republican-controlled House delegation. That's what happened to last year's bill to change the county school board from all-appointed to a hybrid model.

This time, after Rosapepe sided with the Republicans, Reilly asked him if he had really just voted for Simonaire's amendment. And Rosapepe quickly backtracked.

Reilly: "You said aye?"

Rosapepe: "I said aye."

Astle: "You voted for (Simonaire's) amendment?"

Rosapepe: "I did. Is that a problem? Seriously. I mean, I didn't hear anybody argue against the amendment."

Astle: "Well ..."

Rosapepe: "That's fine. I'll withdraw my vote and flip my vote. I will. That's fine."

So Rosapepe's vote was quickly changed to a "no" and Simonaire's amendment failed, 3-2. Then Astle's proposal was approved, with the three Democrats voting for it. And the county's House and Senate delegations were backing different bills.

Both versions are still alive. The House version, House Bill 825, got preliminary approval from the full House of Delegates on Saturday. But if the Senate and House can't agree on the same legislation, the bill can't reach Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk for his signature.

After Friday's vote, Simonaire said he was worried that this, in fact, will be what happens.

"It's just a little discouraging," Simonaire said. "When you think you have it, you're within grasp of victory, and you see it snatched from you ... this is life in Annapolis."

Flip a coin

Brian Charles Vaeth may need a lot of luck to be Maryland's next governor, but he wouldn't be running for the job at all if he hadn't had enough luck to win a coin toss.

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Speaking at last week's Republican Governor Candidate Forum at the Columbian Center in Severna Park, Vaeth said that before filing to run for the GOP nomination, he and fellow Baltimore County resident Duane Gerald Davis Sr. tossed a coin to decide positions on the ticket.

Davis "could be here talking about me right now," Vaeth said.

During the forum, Vaeth said he and Davis - whom he referred to as "Shorty" - first met in court. After the forum, Vaeth explained that he was in court because, after being injured as a firefighter, he was denied his pension.

Davis, according to

The Baltimore Sun,

made headlines in 2011 when he was accused of placing a toilet covered in newspaper clippings, attached to an electronic transmitter and a cellphone, on the grounds of the historic Baltimore County Courthouse in Towson.

The subsequent police reaction included bomb-sniffing dogs and a small robot,

The Sun

reported. Davis was later acquitted of charges of placing a phony destructive device and of making a false statement.

Safer Sundays (for deer)

A proposal to allow deer hunting on more Sundays in Anne Arundel County has been killed by a Senate committee.

The Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee split 5-5-1 on Senate Bill 191, which would have allowed the hunting of deer on four Sundays instead of two, Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton, the bill's sponsor, said on Friday.

A bill that can't get a majority receives an unfavorable report.

All the Anne Arundel County senators on the panel - including Reilly, Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, and Jim Rosapepe, D-College Park - voted for the measure.

But five Democrats - including committee chairwoman Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore - voted no.

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The legislation's opponents included leaders of the county and state horse industries, who advocate "safe Sundays."

Reilly said since people from across the state come to Anne Arundel to ride horses, the opponents saw the legislation as a state measure, not local.

A similar bill - House Bill 197, introduced by Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale - is before the House Environmental Matters Committee. But it isn't considered likely to get approval from that panel and the full House before the General Assembly's crossover deadline at the close of business Monday.

The original legislation would have allowed deer hunting on some 15 Sundays - from the first Sunday in October through the second Sunday of January. But this was changed by county lawmakers.

Proponents said more hunting time is needed to cull the county's population of white-tailed deer, who damage crops and are often hit by cars.

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