A bleary-eyed trifecta of Maryland’s most powerful politicians put their signatures on more than 150 bills Tuesday in the traditional morning-after the General Assembly session ceremony.
The event was more about photo-ops than substance, but it was also a chance for Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel) to offer their assessments of the session that concluded at midnight .
The governor scored several victories in the final hours, winning support for a bill to invest millions in a public/private venture-capital program and a measure designed to shore up the horse-racing industry with operating subsidies. But O’Malley’s most high-profile bills to encourage the development of offshore wind power and ban most new septic systems to reduce pollution were relegated to legislative studies.
“We’re on a journey and nothing is ever completed in one session,” said O’Malley, flanked by Miller and Busch in the governor’s ornate reception room. “These issues aren’t going away, and neither or we.”
Miller agreed, saying that O’Malley’s proposals were only the “first step” and that the initiatives would eventually “get done.”
For his part, Busch said the session was notable for the collegiality between the three Democratic leaders who managed to push through changes to the state’s troubled pension system and to begin to shrink the gap between revenue and spending.
Among the 163 bills signed into law was a measure to create a framework for an insurance exchange that would allow individuals and businesses to shop for health coverage as part of President Obama’s health-care reform initiative. Health care advocates said the state is at the forefront of implementing the federal law, and that the exchange should “make health care affordable and accessible for Marylanders of all walks of life,”according to a statement from the Maryland Health Care For All! Coalition.
Other measures signed Tuesday included a pair of ethics bills meant to put new restrictions on elected officials in Prince George’s County.