From By Delegate Glen Glass:
The recent Special Session convened in the Maryland General Assembly dealt with two proposed bills in which four days of debate were spent. Senate Bill II was designed as the supposed answer to the recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling in Tracy vs. Solesky regarding pit bull dogs and Senate Bill I was the controversial expansion of a sixth casino for Prince Georges County.
Senate Bill II addressed the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous animals and distinguishes Pit Bulls and Pit Bull-mixed breeds from other kinds of dogs. Under the new ruling by the Appeals Court, merely showing that the owner of the dog or the landlord of the property knew the dog is at least part Pit Bull is sufficient to file a claim. It is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous. However, the Senate took what was a bad ruling and made it much worse by deciding that all dog owners would be liable for injuries to victims. This not only included injuries from a dog bite, but injuries incurred as a result of a dog’s impact. For example: if a dog’s activity caused you to fall down a flight of steps or off your bicycle, the pet owner is at fault. The Bill did include many exceptions in cases of trespassing but the language was so muddied and unclear it had the heads spinning of the members of the Judiciary Committee.
The House Judiciary Committee should be commended for their amazing work in reshaping Senate Bill II. Through a series of amendments, the Committee passed legislation with unanimous bipartisan support that was not breed specific, did not hold owners liable so long as their dogs were on a leash or their property, and service animals were protected. The Bill defined that an owner was liable for loose dogs only. Members of my caucus Republican Delegates Neil Parrott, Susan McComas, Michael Smigiel, John Cluster Jr., Michael Hough, Michael McDermott, and Democrats deserve applause for their tremendous effort in crafting this. The amended Senate Bill was passed through the House of Delegates 127-0 and I am proud to say that I supported this bill. Unfortunately the Senate was not so happy and did not take up the amended House version of Senate Bill II which is now leaving dog owners, animal shelters, and tenants in limbo.
As a dog owner and animal lover like many of my constituents, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling has greatly concerned me and I am even more alarmed that the Senate did not adopt the amended version of their bill which would have put many at ease. Pit Bulls are not inherently dangerous but products of their owners and become violent when neglected or raised in an irresponsible manor like any other animal. There are countless studies that have indicated that other dog species more frequently attack humans and other animals compared to pit bulls. In my interactions with Pit Bulls, I found them to be normal, loving, and caring animals.
Senate Bill I was proposed to add an additional sixth casino to the National Harbor Location in Prince Georges County as well allow table games in Maryland. Many additional amendments were included to SBI and the House Ways and Means Committee ultimately passed the bill in a final vote of 13-7 sending it to the House of Delegates for debate.
The House engaged in fierce debate over SBI and endured many amendments that were mostly proposed by Republicans but unfortunately few were adopted. All American Legions and VFWs in Maryland (except for Montgomery County) are now allowed to have several slot machines in their establishments. Delegate Rudolph also put in an amendment that will allow the casino in Perryville to keep a larger share of revenue. Perryville is part of my district and I appreciate Delegate Rudolph’s concern. Republican Delegate Wayne Norman fought like a tiger against Democrat leadership and the sixth site. He proposed several amendments, one of which passed, that guaranteed at least one member of the gaming commission would have to be a minority. I supported him and applaud his effort.
The final vote in the House for gaming expansion was very close and barely passed by the required margin of 71-59 with the Nays receiving unprecedented support from Democrats including my colleague Delegate Mary-Dulany James. We should applaud the Democrats that stood on their principles and refused to buckle to the pressure from their Party and Governor.
When I discovered that the Pit Bull Legislation was going to be brought up, I felt that the right thing was to represent all of you so that you would be able to continue to have your rights not be infringed upon. I received factual information that the vote would be extremely close and my vote could help kill the entire Bill. Since I was there to protect your animal rights I felt it necessary to try and stop the gambling bill as well.
I am proud to say that I voted to strike down SBI in both the House Ways and Means Committee and on the floor of the House of Delegates. In the history of the United States, nostate has ever expanded gaming before first opening and stabilizing the legislated casinos and examining how they perform.My job is not to be in the hands of the corporations and I did not take any part in lowering taxes for corporations after the Democrats just raised them on Marylanders.
Your Servant and Delegate Glen Glass