Cardin Annapolis Report – Special Session II Preview: Fairness in Gaming and Pit Bulls

I hope this message finds you well, enjoying the tail end of a steamy but enjoyable summer. We have reconvened in Annapolis for a special session which I hope will be brief. The purpose: to consider proposals for expanding gaming to a sixth site and allowing table games in Maryland, and to hopefully pass legislation to rectify the Court of Appeals' imposition of strict liability for pit bulls, thereby making landlords liable for their tenants' dogs.

On the subject of gaming, our Constitution requires that the legislature first approve any measure before it ultimately goes before the voters for statewide referendum. The intention of calling a special session now is to approve the measure in time for it to appear on the ballot this November. The Governor's draft bill was presented to us with the intent to be fair and equitable to all interested parties. I plan to introduce a number of amendments to provide what I consider equitable treatment for the businesses and the taxpayers of Maryland.

I am frustrated by the process, timing, and way in which this issue has been handled in Annapolis. As you likely recall, the House and Senate attempted to decide this issue in April, however we were unable to reach a consensus on the matter before the clock ran out on the legislative session. Proponents continue to argue that Maryland is missing out on a potential revenue stream and falling behind neighboring states. Opponents simply want to make sure that taxpayers and investors are not harmed by preferential treatment for the Prince George's County site. You may remember that Prince George's County had its opportunity to approve a gaming site in the past, but its voters decided against it. My biggest concern is that Maryland's reputation for attracting business investors is not harmed by a policy that changes the rules midstream for those who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars on the promise of predictability and fairness.

As a member of the House committee of jurisdiction, it is my duty to continue to study the many issues implicated by these proposals and weigh the feedback of my constituents. I hope we can reach a sustainable and fair result, and put this debate to rest for good.

This past spring the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a landlord may now be held liable for any damages caused by a tenant's pit bull or pit bull mix (without providing any definition of what that is). Facing higher costs of insurance, landlords are now instructing tenants to move out or give up their dog. I believe a dog's owner should always be responsible for his or her pet, but this ruling inappropriately crosses that line to make third parties liable as well. I also believe this ruling unfairly targets a breed regardless of a particular dog's behavior. I will continue to fight to rectify this ruling in the legislature, supporting legislation during the current special session that eliminates third party (landlord) liability so that pit bulls and their owners are not unfairly targeted. We cannot afford to wait. Families are being separated or forced to leave their homes as a result of this misguided ruling, and we all know our animal shelters are already overcrowded. I hope you were able to read my op-ed in the Baltimore Sun last month calling for this legislation.

In my next report, I will explain what comes of this special session, discuss some exciting voting improvements which I spearheaded in the legislature, and discuss a Maryland ruling currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with the use of DNA samples in law enforcement. The case presents an interesting conflict between our right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Jon S. Cardin