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Analysis: O'Malley Moves To Expand Gaming And Strengthen State's Utility Infrastructure

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Gov. Martin O'Malley announced that a  special legislative session will be held Aug. 9 to consider an expansion of gambling in Maryland. Meanwhile, O'Malley and Verizon continue their responses to the utility outages the region sustained after last month's derecho storm.

Robert McCartney, columnist for The Washington Post, talks to Matt McCleskey, host for WAMU's Morning Edition about the top local stories.

The political risk of gaming expansion for O'Malley: "Yes, I think it's quite risky. Presumably he wouldn't call this session if he didn't think he could get the votes. But it's not guaranteed by any means," says McCartney. "There are a lot of powerful interests against this. Also, there are legislators who are willing to vote for this only if there are a lot of conditions any deal, basically to protect revenue from existing casinos. It's not clear that those conditions would be accepted to the other side."

On why O'Malley is doing this: "He wants to get this behind him. He doesn't want this issue hanging over the rest of his term," says McCartney. "Also, there are a lot of jobs at stake, thousands of jobs — both construction jobs and people to run the casino. But if he comes up short on this, it's a significant embarrassment."

The significance of O'Malley issuing an executive order for state agencies to make recommendations to improve state's utility infrastructure:"I think it's significant politically because it protects him against the charge that he let the electric utilities go to seed, in effect on his watch," says McCartney. " O'Malley is trying to be more forward looking. He wants this task forces to study how to strength the electric grid in the state long-term. One thing they're going to be looking at definitely is whether it makes sense to put more wires or all wires underground."

O'Malley linked the storm to climate change: "Pepco and Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) keep saying, this storm was so strong or so unexpected that this was the best we can do," says McCartney. "O'Malley is suggesting that with climate change we're likely to get more extreme weather than in the past, and we need to have an electric grid that will stand up to that."

The latest from Verizon on the 911 outage in Northern Virginia following the derecho: "The investigation moved forward this week, albeit slowly. There's been a lot of public pressure on the telephone company to explain why it didn't have adequate back up when power was lost in central offices and at least two generators that were supposed to kick in, in an emergency, did not," says McCartney. "Elected officials have been unhappy with Verizon...  but that changes somewhat after a big meeting in Fairfax on Tuesday. Verizon provided more information and seemed to be more responsive."

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