Pipkin alleges violation; AG begs to differ

August 15, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Senate Minority Leader E. J. Pipkin is raising concerns that the Senate violated the state Constitution Tuesday night when it convened to consider the House's amendments to a bill expanding gambling in Maryland.

The state Attorney General's Office says the senator's argument has no merit.

Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican, charged that the Senate violated a constitutional provision that says neither House shall adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other chamber by a two-thirds. He noted that the Senate adjourned Friday afternoon and met again starting Tuesday evening. By Pipkin's count, that comes to four days and means the Senate was acting unconstitutionally. He dismissed Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's ruling that the Senate was withing the rules because it was counting "legislative days" rather than "calendar days."

"A day is a day," Pipkin said in a news release. "Once again, the citizens witnessed a legislature operate to its own set of rules with little regard to the State constitution. With this clear violation of the constitutional rules, I am concerned whether the legislation would stand a court challenge. "

No worry, said the AG's office.

In a letter to Miller, Counsel to the General Assembly Dan Friedman gave five reasons why he believes Pipkin is wrong.

1. Pipkin's proper parliamentary course was to appeal the ruling of the chair. He didn't. Thus he lost his opportunity to challenge it.

2. The Senate is entitled to write its own rules of procedure. And incidentally, there's a statute that says Sundays don't count Sundays in determining when a "triggering event" occurs.

3. The Court of Appeals found that the purpose of the constitutional language is to avoid "inconvenience and delay." Friedman said there was none and that it would be inappropriate to turn a common sense rule into a 'colossal game of 'gotcha.' "

4. It's a political question the courts will refuse to hear.

5. The state's top court has ruled that even if the rule was violated, laws passed during that time are not invalid.

Will Pipkin be seeing Friedman in court? Stay tuned.

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