House Democrats meet with O'Malley again

May 03, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

A broad group of House Democrats in leadership positions met late Thursday afternoon with Gov.Martin O'Malley to discuss possible special sessions of the General Assembly this spring and summer.

Earlier in the day, a smaller core group of House leaders met with O'Malley over breakfast at Government House to talk about the same topic.

The second meeting broke up about 6 p.m. House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat who attended both, said there was continuing progress toward an agreement.

"I feel a lot more cheerful about it than I did 24-48 hours ago," he said. Barve declined to get into specifics.

House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis of Prince George's County said he was "cautiously optimistic" that remaining budget issues could be dealt with in a special session "expeditiously."He said only minor matters remain to be resolved.

The  afternoon meeting on the second floor of the State House was part of O'Malley's broader effort to bring the Senate and House together in a special session to pass a tax increase and take other steps that would avert more than $500 million in cuts to his budget that Democratic lawmakers never intended to take effect. But because two budget companion bills failed after the budget passed on the last night of the regular session April 9, the so-called Doomsday Budget cuts will automatically take effect July 1 unless lawmakers act to stop them. Since the cuts falls heavily on the core Democratic jurisdictions and priorities, members of the majority party are under significant pressure to act -- even as Republicans and some conservative Democrats  insist the state should live with the budget that was approved.

As part of his effort, O'Malley has proposed a possible second session later this year to deal with the issue of expanding gambling in Maryland. While Senate PresidentThomas V. Mike Millerhas been stressing the urgency of putting a gambling initiative on the ballot this year, O'Malley and SpeakerMichael E. Busch have said they would prefer the two matters be taken up separately. Miller, who wants to add a casino inPrince George's Countyand permit table games at all of the state's current slots sites, has said he will not let the budget get tied up in that debate.

While Miller has already said he wants senators to reserve May 14-15 as the dates for a special session, Busch has so far resisted narrowing the time the Assembly might reconvene to a specific day. Part of the reason appears to  be that as the leader of a body three times as large as the Senate, Busch needs more time to achieve consensus among members of his caucus and to ensure the votes will still be there to pass the budget measures left on the table last month.

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