Turner ending run as gambling panel chair

Del. Frank S. Turner, who has headed the House subcommittee that deals with gambling the past five years, will leave that post to become vice chairman of the full Ways & Means Committee, the Howard County Democrat confirmed Thursday.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch is expected to make that announcement, along with other committee changes, Friday.

Turner, a five-term veteran who played a central role in the House's passage of a landmark gambling expansion bill last summer, said the time had come to give up the chairmanship of the financial resources subcommittee. After the General Assembly approved the legislation in a special session last August, the voters upheld it in a referendum in November after the most expensive political campaign in Maryland history.

Over the next few years, Turner said, little remains to be done on gambling except tweaking.

"I don't think there are any more mountains to climb," he said. "At some point, you want to say enough is enough."

Through much of last year's extended debate over gambling expansion, Turner expressed skepticism about the wisdom of permitting a new casino in Prince George's County -- which became the central issue in the referendum. At times, he became the chief target of senators and lobbyists who favored gambling expansion.

However, when Busch came to an agreement with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Gov. Martin O'Malley on a framework for expanded gambling, Turner acted as a loyal member of the speaker's team and helped shepherd the legislation through the House.

Turner said he's happy with the change because it will give him the opportunity to work on broader issues handled by the tax-writing committee, including education and transportation. The Ways & Mean Committee is chaired by Montgomery County Democratic Del. Sheila E. Hixson. The current vice chairman, Baltimore Democratic  Del. Sandy Rosenberg, is expected to receive another assignment in House leadership.

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