Maryland Special Session – The Senate Votes

Posted on November 10, 2007

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The Maryland State Senate passed a tax package on Friday by one vote, 24-23. The package is a watered-down version of the one Gov. Martin O’Malley proposed to close the state’s structural deficit. The Senate produced a regressive package that spares the rich and near-rich. The Senate apparently prefers to put most of the new tax burden on the middle class and working poor. This tax bill is not exactly a work of social justice. 

The focus in the Special Session of the Maryland General Assembly now turns to the House of Delegates. The House is working today, Saturday, and maybe the delegates will pass a more progressive tax bill next week. Differences between the House and Senate versions will be ironed out in conference committee.

Nine Democrats joined all 14 Republicans in opposing the tax bill. All three of the Democrats on my Senate watch list voted against the bill. They are Sen. James Brochin, District 42, Sen. Rona Kramer, District 14, and Sen. Norman Stone, District 6. I had thought the vote would be very close if all three sided with the Republicans. Kramer, who represents the northeastern Montgomery County district where I live, was the only Montgomery County senator voting against. Does that mean she would be willing to cut $1.5 billion in services from the state budget? Stay tuned.

The one-vote margin was not as much a cliff-hanger as it looks. With 24 votes assuring passage, several Democrats had the luxury of voting no. I imagine several votes would have been available if needed by O’Malley and Senate President Mike Miller. Sen. Bobby Zirkin, District 11 in Baltimore County, and Sen. George Della, District 46 in the city, are two Democrats who come to mind. Just my opinion. For a complete list of senators voting for and against, click on The Baltimore Sun Politics Page link on the Blogroll at the right side of this page, and then click on the story “Competing Tax Plans.”

A bill to send the slot machine gambling issue to a voter referendum passed the Senate by a much wider margin, 31-15, two votes more than the needed three-fifths majority. Brochin, Kramer and Stone all voted in favor of the slots referendum. For a complete list of the Senate vote on that issue, click on the Maryland Moment link on the Blogroll. Maryland Moment is a blog by Washington Post reporters.

Finally, an O’Malley proposal to expand availability of health care to some of the uninsured in Maryland passed the Senate, 30-17. I’m not sure I approve of considering this health measure in a Special Session that was called  to address tax and slots issues. It might not be a bad idea if the House decides to hold this one over until the regular session.

All in all, an “exhausting” two weeks, as one Montgomery County senator put it. All in all, a good two weeks for the leadership of O’Malley and Miller.  — Bernie Hayden

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