Before voting on a gambling bill, a Maryland Senate panel is expected to consider a couple of measures Friday that would sweeten the pot for Prince George’s County lawmakers.
The bill seeks to authorize a casino in Prince George’s — a prospect that still divides legislators from the county — and allow Las Vegas-style table games at all Maryland casinos.
Prior to voting on the bill, the Senate Budget and Tax Committee is likely to consider several amendments , including one to resolve a long-standing dispute over a state funding formula and another to ensure the views of Prince George’s voters are binding in a required statewide referendum.
For years, lawmakers from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have been pitted against one another over the methodology used in a state education aid formula that measures prosperity in jurisdictions.
Prince George’s has complained that the “net taxable income” calculation does not capture late income tax filers. That, they say, unfairly helps wealthier counties, including Montgomery, where more taxpayers file for extensions.
Changing the formula has been a leading priority this year for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who says the existing terms have cost his county $20 million a year.
An amendment drafted for the gambling bill would provide a more favorable formula for Prince George’s and several other counties while holding Montgomery harmless, according to a legislative aide.
Also, at the insistence of Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s), the bill sponsor, another amendment would make clear that voters in his county have a say in whether a casino comes to their county.
Under existing law, a major gambling expansion requires approval of statewide voters in addition to the General Assembly. A provision in Peters’s bill seeks to make a Prince George’s casino also contingent on the referendum results in Prince George’s.
The state Attorney General’s Office has questioned whether such a provision is constitutional. To address that concern, the Peters-backed amendment would alter the Constitution.
While the amendment might ease concerns of Prince George’s lawmakers, it would make the bill more difficult to pass. With the amendment, the bill would require a three-fifths majority in both the Senate and House of Delegates instead of simple majorities in both chambers.
Another previously reported amendment would shift responsibility for procuring slot machines from the state to casino owners.