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It was a busy day in the Maryland Senate as lawmakers passed two high-profile bills, voted down another, and received a visit from a man known in part for his time heading a legislature.
The day started with a visit from Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who's touring Maryland ahead of next month's primary election. The former speaker of the House refrained from making any statements while inside the chamber about any bills Maryland senators were debating, preferring to do that outside the state house at a press conference, where he discussed Maryland governor Martin O'Malley's plan to apply the state sales tax to gasoline.
"Which I think shows as much political insensitivity as you can imagine," says the former House Speaker. "Given everybody's concern about the price of gasoline, to have an effort made to raise the price by as much as 25 cents a gallon strikes me as being very anti-working American."
Senators have yet to take any action on O'Malley's plan, which the governor says is needed to fund mass transit projects and road and bridge repairs.
They did vote today to OK a bill that calls for a sixth slots casino license in the state. The facility will be built in Prince George's County. The bill now heads to the House where its future is murkier, but Senate president Mike Miller is confident it will pass in the other chamber because of how large the bill's approval margin was in the Senate.
"Extremely strong vote. There were numerous compromises," says Miller. "Every single county benefits, but the biggest beneficiaries are the taxpayers of the state. Because it will curb some of the money flowing into Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. And it will bring in money from the District of Columbia and Virginia into Maryland."
The bill also allows for table games like blackjack and roulette at Maryland casinos.
Senators also approved a contentious measure that curbs septic tanks at new developments, while rejecting a proposed environmental impact study on a new span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.