Meeting on findings of slots study moved


The authors of a slot-machine study were scrambling yesterday for a new locale to release their findings after Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller abruptly canceled their use of the Annapolis building that bears his name.

Jeffrey C. Hooke of the Maryland Tax Education Foundation and Thomas A. Firey of the Maryland Public Policy Institute had invited the media and others to the Miller Senate Office Building today to discuss how Maryland can maximize revenue from slot machines.

But after Miller saw a faxed announcement of the event, he told his staff to move the gathering.

"I never approved this thing," Miller said in an interview yesterday, saying it was inappropriate for advocacy groups to use Senate meeting rooms for announcements. He said a staff member scheduled the news conference by mistake, thinking that the Maryland Public Policy Institute was a state agency.

The cancellation was made about 4 p.m., giving Hooke and Firey just a few hours to find another venue and leaving them questioning the motives of Miller, one of the strongest advocates for slot-machine gambling during this year's General Assembly session.

"It's stunning, more than anything else," Firey said. "Here's two groups that tried to put together an objective study. The governor's office is sending a number of people to hear what we have to say. But I guess Mike Miller is not interested in hearing us say what we have to say."

The study, released to the media but embargoed until today, asserts that the slots plan adopted by Miller's Senate is worse than several alternatives for raising money for the state.

Miller's office retracted the cancellation just minutes after they issued it. Miller and his staffers said they had not initially realized that the request to use the room was sponsored by Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, the Senate minority leader.

Miller said later that senators can use the meeting rooms for news conferences without hindrance, regardless of their stance on issues. But the same courtesy should not be extended to advocacy groups, he said.

By the time Miller's aides re-extended the offer, the authors had found another room - at Annapolis' Maryland Inn.

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