Pipkin wants slots out of the MD Constitution
Sen. E.J. Pipkin, the new senate minority whip, said this morning at a University of Maryland panel that he will introduce legislation this year to remove the state's gaming program from Maryland's constitution.
The change could make it easier for additional counties to build casinos. It could also ease the way for table games like poker or roulette and streamline the process for increasing the number of slots machines. Such modifications must currently be approved by voter referendum -- that only happens every other year.
Pipkin, a Republican from the Eastern Shore, says the current gaming framework puts Maryland at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states. Some lawmakers want to add gaming in Prince George's County as a way to enhance the profitability of Rosecroft Raceway, and are frustrated that the process will take two years. Penn National, a gaming powerhouse that already owns one of Maryland's casinos, just bought the track.
Pipkin said that he's still drafting the legislation -- and the voters would likely need to approve it via referendum. The next statewide ballot is in 2012.
He spoke at the first annual political summit sponsored by the University of Maryland's Center for American Politics and Citizenship. It was attended by other state leaders who gave some hints about where General Assembly members might tweak Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller reiterated his support for a gasoline tax, though did not say how much he'd like to increase it. Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola is expected to introduce a legislative package this week that hikes the gas tax.
On transportation Pipkin floated creating a separate taxing authority for big ticket transit projects like the proposed light rail lines in Baltimore and the D.C. suburbs. "If you live in the rural areas you don't share those hopes and dreams," he said.
He characterized O'Malley's proposed cuts to the state Medicaid program as a tax on Marylanders with insurance because he predicted that hospitals will hike health costs for insured Marylanders. "It that a tax?" he asked. "Some would call it a hospital tax."