Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. wants to change the way lawmakers handle budget negotiations to avoid another midnight meltdown like the one the General Assembly experienced in April.
But some lawmakers say the current legislative rules have worked just fine for two decades and would have this year without Miller's push to bring casino gambling to his home county of Prince George's.
Gov. Martin O'Malley even Tweeted shortly after session that it was the "silly bomb of gambling" that exploded, causing the General Assembly's historic collapse.
Miller suggests suspending all debate on the Senate floor of any bills except those related to the budget, but only if House and Senate budget generals have failed to reach a compromise with seven days left of the 90-day session.
Committees would continue to hold hearings and work on other bills during that time, but the Senate floor would be restricted to budgetary matters, according to Victoria Gruber, Miller's chief of staff.
The Senate president's idea stems from what he heard was a lack of urgency or willingness to compromise during budget negotiation hearings, Gruber said. Delaying debate on all other bills would serve as an incentive for lawmakers to quickly wrap up budget negotiations and avoid debate at the eleventh hour of the session.
Some lawmakers said they were open to improving the budgetary process in hopes of avoiding another $25,000-per-day special session, but criticized Miller for his part in the General Assembly's failures.
"If there's something positive that can come out of the debacle that he caused, I'm in favor of it," said Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County.
The General Assembly's meltdown may have been the first of its kind in two decades, but "once was enough," Brochin said. "It was an embarrassment to the state of Maryland."
Trevor Parry-Giles, a professor of political communication at the University of Maryland, said the rule changes proposed by Miller won't prevent future session meltdowns as long as no atmosphere for compromise exists.
"It's like all the other times when things don't go the way that somebody wants them to go," he said. "The response isn't to find out a way to make it work better, it's to find a stopgap measure and change the way you do things procedurally."