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February 23, 2012

Convoluted Thinking in Annapolis

Blaine R. Young

The 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly keeps chugging along, and it appears that those outside the major metropolitan areas are going to be force-fed a lot of liberal policy that we probably don’t want.


That’s the nature of being a conservative or a moderate in a state governed by an ultra-liberal governor and a compliant legislature. It seems that we always have to put our helmets on to protect us from what comes flying our way out of Annapolis.


Of course, we’ve got the governor who wants to enact seemingly every new tax he can think of since the end of last year’s session. He wants to increase the income tax, the gas tax, recordation tax, flush tax, Internet tax; and he will probably think of a few more in the next couple of weeks. I don’t think he is going to get his way on all of them, but he certainly will get his way on a good many, and we will have less disposable income this time next year than we do this year.


But the two things I seem to be hearing most about lately are not taxes, but are instead same-sex marriage and gambling. It’s very interesting to look at how our esteemed “leaders” in Annapolis propose to handle these two issues.


First, we have new gambling initiatives. The big news over the last week was that the county executive in Prince George’s County, Rushern Baker, finally came out with a position concerning new proposed gambling locations for Prince George’s. With its proximity to Washington and northern Virginia, Mr. Baker’s county has always been considered a sensible location for a new gambling facility, if the object is to raise revenue, which we are told is the case.


Yet, the last time around Prince George’s was not included in the areas eligible for gambling, as there was staunch opposition there, primarily from local churches and religious groups.


Last week Mr. Baker came out forcefully in favor of a proposal to put a full blown Las Vegas-style casino at the National Harbor project along the banks of the Potomac River. Many people thought that if gambling finally came to Prince George’s it would be at Rosecroft Raceway, which has gone through bankruptcy proceedings and likely cannot survive without enhanced gambling. The county executive has chosen the National Harbor, wants a billion dollar casino built, and has thrown his support behind the developers of that project.


This latest proposal has unleashed fierce opposition from the developer of what was to be the largest gambling emporium in Maryland, at Arundel Mills Mall in Anne Arundel County. This project is well under construction with opening scheduled for later this year. They say they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them, since many of their prospective customers would likely be diverted to the National Harbor project if that gets off the ground.


In any event, regardless of where the legislature wants to put new gambling facilities, the issue will come to the voters. We’ve heard a lot of talk out of Annapolis about how an issue this important should be decided by the voters through a referendum. If the legislature passes a gambling bill and the governor signs it, it will then go on the ballot for this fall and the voters will have a chance to vote it up or down.


Now there are pros and cons to taking legislation to referendum, but what is really interesting is the comparison of how the legislature is handling the gambling question with how they approach the same-sex marriage legislation.


Changing thousands of years of societal custom to allow a government sanctioned legal marriage between members of the same sex is not to be entrusted to the voters. In fact, once it is finally approved and signed into law (which appears to be a lock as I write this column) the supporters will do everything possible to defeat any move to take the bill to the voters.


That’s right, gambling is so important that it should go to the voters, but same-sex marriage is too important to be entrusted to the voters. That is the warped thinking of our so-called “leaders” in Annapolis.


The good news is that eventually these “leaders” also will have to answer to the voters at the polls. Let’s hope we can finally do something about it next time around.



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