Volume 13, Issue 15 ~ April 14 - 20, 2005
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    No Slots? No Sweat. Adios General Assembly

    We are happy that the General Assembly left town if only to be rid of the incessant debate over gambling that ended as the session began: in impasse.

    The high-decibel confusion over slots has gone on so long that puppies have become old dogs. Babies born when Gov. Robert Ehrlich first floated the gambling balloon are talking a blue streak now, and what they’re saying is Enough.

    “The hog is in the tunnel,” we wrote a month or so ago when the Senate and House passed separate versions of gambling bills. But while the gambling interests were so busy carving up one another behind the scenes, arguing over who gets how many machines and where, the Big Pig escaped.

    As we’ve said before, our biggest concern was not the morals of gambling but the unseemliness of the accompanying politics and the greed that so clearly manifested itself late in the game when half-a-loaf wasn’t sufficient for the Gucci-shoe crowd.

    Whether or not you agree with House Speaker Michael Busch, you have to admire his gumption in standing up not just to the governor and the gambling boys but to Senate President Mike Miller, a fellow Democrat who recognized the value to Maryland of gambling proceeds.

    While we like to gig the General Assembly for dawdling, there are several reasons that members should be praised.

    We support the bill that increased the state’s minimum wage to $6.15. And we’re especially pleased with legislation that would slap Wal-Mart with a fat tax if the world’s biggest retailer continues to stint on medical benefits for its employees. Why should taxpayers across the country be saddled with paying Medicaid benefits for Wal-Mart employees while the Walton family grows richer by the day? Too bad, we say, that Ehrlich doesn’t support the Fair Share Health Care Fund and plans a veto.

    We’re heartened by passage of the so-called domestic partners registry allowing unmarried people of either sex to make medical decisions for one another and enjoy other benefits of humanity.

    Liberating though driving is for young people, we, too, want to see them live through their teen years. So we agree with setting limits for teenage drivers on our ever-busier roads, including a prohibition on new motorists under 18 from talking on cell phones while driving.

    On environmental bills, we’re disappointed in the failure of tougher vehicle-pollution standards that would have saved lives and fuel use for Marylanders. But we’re pleased with a plan supported by the governor to remedy lead poisoning in children, a problem in rural communities as well as in cities.

    We don’t think it’s wise to tinker with the constitution whether by restricting the governor’s ability to sell land (which passed) or banning same-sex marriage (which failed).

    Gov. Ehrlich has said that we’re not likely to see another slots push until 2007 because of the perils of dealing with gambling in an election year.

    That year-long reprieve is fine by us. We eagerly await a session without the slots distraction that has hampered the General Assembly for too long already.

    © COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.