- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Gov. Parris N. Glendening is expected to sign legislation that would speed up the process for granting state recognition to Indian tribes.
But the bill has raised concerns that a tribe that won state and federal recognition could purchase land and go into the gambling business.
The bill's proponents and members of a Piscataway-Conoy tribe in Southern Maryland say that they don't want slot machines, and that the bill would simply force state officials to make timely decisions.
"Certainly I did not want to see gambling form as a result of this," said Delegate Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the bill.
The bill was important to Mr. Branch for cultural reasons, he said, because his grandfather on his father's side was a Tuscarora Indian from North Carolina.
People who say they are members of the Piscataway-Conoy tribe have spent thousands of dollars and endless lobbying hours on a campaign for state recognition.They say a state-sponsored identity could provide the 2,000-strong tribe with education, health and housing benefits.
Maurice Eagle Shadow Proctor, a council member of the Wild Turkey clan of the Piscataway tribe, said state recognition also would "correct the wrongness against the tribe over the last 300 years, and give a new spirit to the young people."
But the suspicion that Indians are angling for casinos is heightened now that Maryland is at a fiscal and political crossroads. After passing legislation this month that would pump $1.3 billion into public schools over six years, lawmakers and the next governor will be under pressure to figure out how to pay for it.
Gambling revenue has long been held out as the easiest and most lucrative source.
Mr. Glendening has opposed the expansion of gambling, but his office said he is expected to sign this legislation. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who wants to succeed him, does not support slots. But Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, does.
The Piscataway-Conoy petition has had help in the past from developers which has further piqued anti-gambling advocates.
The tribe has had support from developers Richard A. Swirnow of Baltimore and Mark R. Vogel of Prince George's County. In 1997, Mr. Vogel recommended the tribe hire lawyer Lance W. Billingsley, a friend of Mr. Glendening and chairman of University System of Maryland's Board of Regents.
The tribe paid Mr. Billingsley $10,000 to help it in its bid to obtain state recognition.
"I smell something fishy," said Barbara Knickelbein, regional representative of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. "Something like power-cash politics involved, I don't know. We don't have $10,000, but we will work against this bill."
Mr. Branch had to reassure the governor and lawmakers that the legislation would not lead to casinos.
He amended the bill to say it "may not be construed to create any entitlements, benefits, or rights to conduct, manage, or operate any gambling or gaming activities in the State."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide