O'Malley says push for bill going 'swimmingly'

Gov.Martin O'Malley was out early Friday morning, meeting with large House delegations in his efforts to win passage of his gambling-expansion bill as a special session of the General Assembly moved into its second day.

The governor met this morning with the Prince George's and Montgomery county delegations amid signs that his efforts and those of legislative leaders were fallling into place.

Asked how he assessed the bill's prospects, an ebullient O'Malley said: "I think they're going swimmingly."

Observing the scene was Del. Michael Smigiel, an Upper Shore Republican.

"The governor's walking through the halls smiling so someone must have succumbed to the water-boarding," he said.

One sign that Speaker Michael E. Buschwas getting his troops in line came from Del. Talmadge Branch, the House majority whip. Branch, a Baltimore Democrat, has been openly skeptical about adding a casino inPrince George's County-- a central provision of the bill -- but now it appears he's on the speaker's team and will be counting votes for him.

"I will do the whip on this. I am the speaker's whip," Branch said.

There were other signs that the all-Democratic  Baltimore delegation is about to sign on in significant numbers.

Del. Nathaniel Oaks, a free spirit who is never an automatic vote with the speaker and governor, signaled that he could agree to the bill if there is a change to the way the city's  revenue from table games is distributed. Instead of directing it all to school construction, he said he'd like to get a share for recreation and parks.

"It's moving so you might as well jump on it," he said.

As of early afternoon, the Senate was going through the bill point by point and considering amendments. A preliminary vote is expected this afternoon and the final vote could come as early as this evening.

The House convened Friday morning for bill introduction, then adjourned. The House Ways and Means Committee will meet this afternoon to hold a hearing and vote on the gambling bill.






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