GOP’s Slots Lawsuit Dealt A Setback

BERLIN – The lawsuit filed last week by Maryland’s Republican leadership challenging several pieces of legislation approved during the recent special session, including the slots referendum and the tax increase package, was dealt a setback this week when the state’s Court of Special Appeals ruled a key witness in the case would not be deposed yesterday as planned.

The GOP leadership in the House and Senate this month 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 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.

Among the irregularities the GOP leadership wants addressed in the suit is a five-day adjournment by the full Senate during the middle of the special session, which is counter to state law and protocol for the General Assembly. The Senate broke for several days during the session while waiting for the House to take key votes on certain issues, which violates 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.

In order to clearly establish the dates and reasons for the Senate shutdown in the middle of the special session, attorneys for the GOP plaintiffs in the case were hoping to take the deposition of Chief Clerk of the Senate Mary Monahan on Wednesday in Florida. Monahan was expected to produce documents outlining why the Senate adjourned during the session.

However, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler on Wednesday filed an emergency motion to stop the deposition of Monahan pending an appeal. Late Wednesday, a three-judge panel on the Court of Special Appeals upheld the attorney general’s emergency motion, putting a stop to yesterday’s planned deposition of Monahan and throwing a major wrench, at least temporarily, in the state GOP’s effort to invalidate much of the action taken during the special General Assembly session.