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Budget Holes and Big Guns

District 15 legislators hold a town hall meeting.

Only six residents braved the cold temperatures on Saturday morning to come to a town hall meeting with the legislative delegation from District 15, but the discussions were wide ranging.

A topic bound to come up at any gathering of state legislators is slot machines, and the proposal to use them to help close a $735 million budget shortfall this year.

“The negotiating never stops,” said Del Jean Cryor (R). Cryor sits on the house ways and means committee which would be one of the first to take a look at any proposal.

But most of the work on slot machines, said Cryor is really being done by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.

“If the three of them can come together on something, we will have a slots bill,” Cryor said.

One resident, citing concerns of people who can become addicted to gambling and of the social ills which might accompany the machines, spoke in opposition to the expansion of gambling.

“It would be important, on principal, to oppose slot machines,” said Potomac resident Bob Mecklenburg.

He advocated an increase on the tobacco or alcohol tax instead. These types of increases also serve to increase the price and to deter people from purchasing the products which have been shown to be harmful, he said.

With this year’s budget needing a fix, and a deficit next year projected to be over $1 billion, some are starting to look to larger changes in the tax structure or fees provided.

“It goes to what kind of a state do we want to live in,” said Del. Brian Feldman (D).

Mecklenburg also spoke in favor of more controls on development of property. While the concern with protecting the Chesapeake is admirable, more needs to be done to protect green spaces, he said. “The most obscene word in the English language is ‘developer,’” he said.

The federal ban on assault weapons is due to expire in September of this year. Sen. Rob Garagiola (D) introduced a similar measure that would continue the ban in Maryland last year, but it failed.

While Garagiola says the ban is necessary in order to keep citizens safe, Mecklenburg disagrees. “It’s kind of a nonsense legislation in my view,” Mecklenburg said. “I can’t see where it’s going to do anything for public safety.”

Garagiola explained that the ban will not remove any guns from people who already own them, but will prohibit the sale or transfer of them.

“I think the goal is the right goal,” Garagiola said. “Many are civilian versions of a military weapon. I, personally, don’t think that these weapons belong on the streets.”

The delegation was also questioned on the state’s work on an anti-spam bill. “If the federal government can not suppress the spam, the state can’t,” said Potomac resident Rudi Saenger. “How is Maryland going to control a guy in California?”

“There are specific gaps in the federal legislation that can be filled by state legislatures,” said Feldman.

Garagiola pointed out that it is up to legislators to, at least, attempt to help with citizen’s problems. “Should I say, ‘well if the federal government is not going to do it – should I just throw up my arms?” he said.

“I can’t see how the state of Maryland can do much, Saenger said. “I think the time could be better spent.”