- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Parris N. Glendening vetoed four proposed laws yesterday, one that he said might open the door for slot machines and casino gambling in Maryland and three that he feared would undermine land-preservation programs.
Mr. Glendening cited fears of expanded gambling as his reason for vetoing a bill that would have sped up the process for granting state recognition to Indian tribes.
The bill would have established deadlines that could have required the governor as early as next January to rule on the request for recognition. State action would then help the tribe obtain federal designation.
"There is a general perception that the push for this bill is about trying to bring slots into the state of Maryland," the governor told reporters who watched him stamp each of the four bills as vetoed.
Mr. Glendening said he understands the desire of the Piscataway-Conoy Indians to achieve federal recognition, which would make them eligible for federal health, education and housing benefits.
But federal recognition also might exempt the tribe from state gambling laws and eventually allow it to operate casinos as Indian tribes have done in other states.
According to the last census, 54,860 Marylanders identified themselves as part American Indian or Alaska native. Of those, 15,423 said they were solely American Indian or Alaska native.
A branch of the Piscataway Indian Nation, with about 120 members clustered mainly in Prince George's and Charles counties, has a petition pending with the state seeking formal designation as a tribe
The bill specified that it would not create any gambling rights, but Mr. Glendening, a strong opponent of slot machines and casino gambling, said that was not sufficient protection.
"If they have federal recognition and they have tribal land, they can establish their gambling operations independent of state law," he said.
The land-preservation bills were all minor in scope, but Mr. Glendening said the cumulative, long-range effect could be to substantially weaken the state's agricultural land-preservation program.
Under that program, owners are paid by the state for an easement that prohibits development for residential or commercial use.
One of the bills would have allowed five landowners who sold easements in Carroll County before January 1990 to use one acre of land for construction of a new house if the land is sold.
The immediate impact would be slight, but once the rules were changed for those five properties, "How can you say no to anybody else in the state?" Mr. Glendening asked.
A second bill would have allowed landowners to retain natural-gas rights if they sell preservation easements, and a third bill would have allowed owners who sold easements at least 11 years ago to apply for local tax credits.
"What we see every year is a series of bills that try to undermine land preservation," Mr. Glendening said.
If those bills become law, they reverse the strong commitment to land preservation that has seen Maryland protect more than 1 million acres from development, he said.
Mr. Glendening said he expects to veto about 30 more bills in the next two days. He has scheduled his final bill-signing ceremony for tomorrow.

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