Assembly pushes through Gov. Martin O'Malley's liberal agenda

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Photo -  A bill that would require Maryland's nonunion public school employees to pay a fee to education unions is on its way to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk after the state Senate gave it final approval Thursday. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
A bill that would require Maryland's nonunion public school employees to pay a fee to education unions is on its way to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk after the state Senate gave it final approval Thursday. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland General Assembly approved every major piece of Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative agenda before lawmakers adjourned for the year Monday night.

O'Malley's agenda -- which included gun control, a death penalty repeal, offshore wind farms and a new tax on gasoline -- seems catered to appeal to liberals, experts agree.

"Certainly going to bat for progressive items will help O'Malley with Democrats [in a 2016 primary]," said David Lublin, a government professor at American University. "It feels like it's 2013 and we just elected the president."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, agreed that Maryland has become a much more liberal state, noting that the legislation passed this year never would have flown when he became Senate president more than two decades ago.

Nearly all of O'Malley's priorities passed this session. He won approval for an offshore wind farm -- on his third try -- expanded early voting, allowing same-day voter registration and kept Maryland at the forefront of states implementing President Obama's health care overhaul.

For his part, the liberal moniker doesn't bother O'Malley.

"I don't care. Call me anything but late for dinner," he said. "The real test is are we making progress or are we not making progress? I consider myself a performance-driven progressive, if you will."

But it's the big headline-grabbing legislation that likely will increase his bona fides with liberal voters -- and raise the rankles of the GOP.

O'Malley's Firearms Safety Act bans 45 assault weapons, requires licensing and fingerprinting for new handgun purchases, limits ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and prohibits gun ownership by the mentally ill.

The governor also pushed through a tax increase on gasoline to provide new revenue for the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund. Maryland motorists can expect to see prices jump 4 cents per gallon on July 1, after a 1 percent wholesale tax is applied. That wholesale tax would ratchet up to 3 percent by the end of 2015.

Also on O'Malley's desk is a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, though they couldn't be used for federal purposes such as airport security.

All of that was done over the vocal, vehement, but ultimately futile objection of Republicans, who have small minorities in each chamber of the legislature.

"I think, led by the governor, the left-wing, liberal, extreme part of the Democrat Party has hijacked the state of Maryland, and it's holding it hostage," said Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, R-Eastern Shore.

Members of the GOP have talked about petitioning some of O'Malley's legislation to referendum, putting its ultimate fate before voters in the 2014 election.

O'Malley said he expects that, and he isn't worried about it.

"I mean, I serve a good people, and the people of our state are very smart, they're very fair, they're very intelligent -- there were a lot of referendum issues on the ballot last year, I would expect that a lot of the things we've done since then will find their way to the ballot," he said.

"You can't fear that."

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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Andy Brownfield

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner