Lawsuit Questions Legality Of Slots Referendum

BERLIN – Another twist was added in the never-ending battle over slots in Maryland last week when the state’s Republican leadership in the House and Senate filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of several pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly during the recent special session.

The minority leadership in the House and Senate last Thursday filed suit in Carroll County Circuit Court calling into question several actions taken by state lawmakers during the recently completed special session. Among other issues, the GOP leadership 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.

Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley (R-4A), who is listed as a plaintiff in the suit, chastised his colleagues for hiding behind a constitutional amendment for the slots referendum when they could have just voted to approve slots.

“Obviously, the General Assembly has the power to approve slot machines without altering the constitution,” he said. “By disguising a public referendum as a constitutional amendment, this runs afoul of previous court rulings prohibiting state appropriations from being subject to a vote of the public.  Legislators should have accepted the responsibility themselves and just passed a slots bill.”

In addition to questioning the approved referendum on slots, the suit filed last week by the GOP leadership asks 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.

“The special session was an injustice to citizens of Maryland,” he said.  “We are asking the court to review the procedural irregularities, lack of transparency and constitutional violations with the just result that these tax increases be overturned.”

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-29C), who is also a plaintiff, said the suit filed last week was not a rush to judgment following the contentious special session, but rather a well-thought-out response to perceived irregularities in procedures. “This action was not taken lightly, nor was it arrived at without very serious considerations,” he said. “This lawsuit is about government transparency and the integrity of our state constitution. Constitutional restrictions on the legislature can never be ignored. Doing so puts all of Maryland’s citizens at risk now and in the future.”