But the bill was never voted on by either chamber.
A casino cliffhanger
Instead, the Senate and House seemed to spend more time in the legislature's final hours working out the day’s biggest cliffhanger — gambling.
That issue also appeared to have gained momentum Monday afternoon, when a key House committee voted to allow a Prince George’s casino at National Harbor to open by mid-2016 if voters in both the state and county approved the measure at the ballot.
The bill would have also authorized Las Vegas-style tables games at all Maryland gambling venues, pending voter approval.
Despite a 15-to-4 vote by the Ways and Means Committee, the gaming bill languished through the evening and never came to a vote in the full House.
Miller, one of the legislature’s leading gambling proponents, told his chamber that he hoped the issue would be among those debated in a special session called by the governor.
The Senate had passed two gaming bills prior to Monday, both in an effort to authorize a sixth Maryland gambling site in Prince George’s.
In recent weeks, county delegations expressed varied interests, with some lawmakers in jurisdictions with previously authorized casinos rising to protect their interests.
In a nod to those concerns, the Ways and Means Committee plan would have limited the Prince George’s casino to 3,000 slot machines — fewer than at planned facilities in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) vigorously lobbied lawmakers, both from his county and elsewhere, for a “high-end” casino at National Harbor, called the committee vote a victory.
A mixed bag on environmental agenda
Amid the scramble over gambling and the budget, the remainder of O’Malley’s agenda met with mixed results.
Legislators passed a bill that will double the state’s “flush tax” to fund improvements to wastewater treatment systems.
O’Malley had sought to make the fee progressive, based on water consumption. But lawmakers concluded that would have strained small businesses, and they instead settled on a flat doubling of the fee to $60.
That was one of two parts of O’Malley’s environmental agenda that received final passage. Lawmakers also voted to limit developments that rely on septic systems. However, a more forceful attempt by O’Malley to curb septic use by inserting the state into local land-use decisions was watered down significantly.
O’Malley’s agenda failed in other areas. His second attempt to construct an elaborate — albeit scaled back — subsidy to fund private development of offshore wind power remained stuck in the Senate.
And the governor’s unpopular idea to add 20 cents or more to the tax on each gallon of gasoline to replenish the state’s nearly bankrupt transportation trust fund remained moribund, having never received an up-or-down vote by a committee.
The legislature also failed to pass an O’Malley bill that would have had Maryland join a little-noticed wave of Democratic states gravitating toward using public-private partnerships to run state facilities – a practice once anathema to blue states and their often-powerful public employee unions.
As much as it was a finale to the General Assembly’s session, Monday marked a return to power struggles among Maryland Democrats — a party that has long loomed so large in the state that its members can hold fiercely different views on an array of issues, not the least being gambling and taxes.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), the titans of the legislature, began the session three months ago congratulating one another on their record-long tenures. They ended it Monday in a battle of wills.
Staff writer Greg Masters contributed to this report.