Move to ban keno is killed

March 10, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

Odds are, keno is in Maryland to stay.

Four days after a House committee killed bills that would have prohibited the controversial electronic numbers game, the full House crushed a move yesterday to let all 141 delegates debate the issue.

"Personally, I think keno is a mistake, and I want an opportunity to vote against it," argued Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County, one of 20 of the House's 25 Republicans who voted to bring the keno issue to the floor.

But the Republicans and other keno opponents were no match for the House's Democratic leaders, who said that bringing to the floor a bill already killed in committee would undermine the House's strict committee system.

"This goes beyond the question of keno," said Majority Leader D. Bruce Poole, a Washington County Democrat. "The vote is more significant: It is whether we want to live by the committee system or not."

The outcome: an 81-49 vote to abide by the Ways and Means Committee's decision.

Fear of further budget cuts was also a factor in the action.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, warned that eliminating keno would force the House to make up the lost revenues with more than $60 million in additional budget cuts -- on top of $100 million to $130 million in cuts already in the works.

Virtually all bills are referred to the House's five standing committees, which hold hearings and vote on whether to send the measures to the full House for consideration. When a bill is killed by a committee, that usually is the end of the line.

However, House rules permit a defeated bill to be brought before the full House if a majority of delegates vote to do so. It is rarely done. But Del. Curtis S. Anderson, D-Baltimore, suggested the House do so with the keno bill.

"The overwhelming majority of citizens want to know where we stand on this," agreed Montgomery County Democrat Leon Billings. He called keno "an insidious activity."

But Ways and Means Committee members backed the panel's action.

Del. James C. Rosapepe, a Prince George's Democrat, said he voted for the keno prohibition bill in committee and lost, but still opposed bringing the bill before the full House.

"I think keno is wrong, but I think Ways and Means gave the issue fair consideration, and I don't see a need to bring it out on the floor," he said.

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