High Court Rejects GOP Slots Suit

BERLIN – An attempt to repeal the sweeping tax changes
and a referendum on slots approved by the General Assembly during a special
session last fall failed last month when the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld
an earlier decision by a Carroll County Circuit Court judge to declare a
lawsuit filed by state GOP leaders in December invalid.

The Maryland Court of
Appeals last month affirmed the decision of Carroll County Circuit Court Judge
Thomas Stansfield to throw out the lawsuit filed late last year by several
Republican Senators and Delegates following the passage of sweeping tax
increases and a statewide referendum on slots. The GOP leadership in the House
and Senate in December filed suit in Carroll County Circuit Court seeking to
invalidate several actions taken by state lawmakers during the recently
completed special session.

Among other issues, the
minority party is asking the court to review the “legislative scheme” by which
state appropriations are made contingent upon a public referendum through the
constitutional amendment for slot machine gambling. In addition to questioning
the approved referendum on slots, the suit filed asked the court to set aside
the numerous increases in taxes and fees approved by the General Assembly
during the special session for various reasons including perceived
irregularities in how business was conducted on both sides of the aisle.

Among
the irregularities the GOP leadership wanted addressed in the suit was a five-day
adjournment by the full Senate during the middle of the special session. The
Senate broke for several days during the session while waiting for the House to
take key votes on certain issues, which violated the state’s constitution and,
therefore, invalidates any action taken later in the session including the
approval of the slots referendum and many of the tax changes, according to
suit.

In
December, Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Stansfield acknowledged
there were certain irregularities in how the General Assembly conducted its
business during the special session, but said the indiscretions were not severe
enough to overturn the actions taken by state lawmakers including the tax
increases and the slots referendum.

“Although
the court is inclined to agree with the plaintiffs regarding the reprehensible
nature in which the legislature conducted itself, the remedy they seek in
redress is too drastic a notion to accept,” wrote Stansfield in his opinion.

Undaunted,
GOP leaders appealed the circuit court decision to the state’s highest court,
but the Court of Appeals in mid-March affirmed Stansfield’s decision. A Court
of Appeals opinion has not been filed.

 

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