First, slot machine gambling was going to raise enough money to save the horse racing industry. Next, gambling revenue was going to finance school construction.

Now, architects of the campaign to legalize slots are preparing to tie their fortunes to teachers' pensions.

Specifically, there are efforts in the works to push a slots bill that would send proceeds to teachers, financing a $600 million boost in their pension program, which is rated as one of the worst in the nation.

The biggest advocate for boosting pensions -- the Maryland State Teachers Association -- isn't too sure it wants to bet on slots.

Diana Saquella, the union's managing director for government relations, said she has heard talk of the latest slots plan, and her reaction was, "Why would we want to get into that fight?"

"We have no position on slots," Saquella said. "But I do think it's sad this issue has dominated three sessions of the legislature and now could dominate a fourth."

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), who was a longtime teacher and now works for the union, said his position as an elected official will be to fight any effort to link pension reform with slots.

"It seems to me the issue of teacher pensions can stand on its own merits," Pinsky said. "The state is 50th in the country in terms of benefits. Tying that to slots, in my opinion, is like playing a game with the lives of 50,000 teachers."

Something Fishy in the Air

Some Maryland environmental advocates were curious when the president of the American Lung Association's state chapter agreed to stand alongside Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) last month as he announced his new air quality program.

They knew of no one in the environmental community who had seen the actual regulations Ehrlich would enact. Lung Association President Stephen M. Peregoy hadn't seen them either but said he knew enough about the proposal to feel comfortable giving his backing.

Now, questions are circulating about Peregoy's decision because the state Lung Association's incoming chairman, Peregoy's boss, works for one of the two giant power companies that would be affected by the governor's proposal.

David T. Snyder, chairman-elect of the association's Maryland chapter, also is an employee of Constellation Energy Group.

Peregoy said in an interview last week that he discussed with board members the possibility that his public support could be viewed as a conflict. But he said Snyder removed himself from any discussion or board vote on the issue.

"Certainly we looked at this," Peregoy said. "But ultimately, I don't think anyone can say what the governor is proposing will not improve the quality of our air. Is it as strong as [other proposals]? Maybe not. But this will improve the air quality and the lung health of the citizens of Maryland. And that's our mission."

The Primary Reason for Change

State Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman is talking with lawmakers about assembling a package of election law changes for the upcoming session. The measures would be designed to expand voter participation but could also serve as the vehicle for a controversial proposal to move the state's primary from September to June.

Some Democrats, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., are pressing for the change, concerned that their candidates could emerge weakened -- politically and financially -- after primary battles. As it is, Democratic nominees for governor and U.S. Senate would have just two months to pivot their attention to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is expected to run unopposed in the Republican primary, and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, if he is the GOP's choice for Senate.

Paired with other proposals to increase voter turnout, such as making absentee ballots more readily available, the election package under discussion could sway Democrats on the fence about changing the primary date.

Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery), chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, which would consider such a bill, has consistently opposed the idea of moving the primary. But Hixson opened the door a crack Wednesday after a hearing on other so-called election reforms.

"I don't think I'd like to see a change," said Hixson. Then, after a brief pause, she added, "But, I can be convinced to change."