Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Monday settled on a confrontational line that laid blame on members of the General Assembly for delaying two of his core legislative initiatives this year.
In multiple radio and newspaper interviews, O’Malley repeatedly said lawmakers “choked” on the size and vision of his plan to spur offshore wind development, as well as to limit construction of most new septic systems to reduce pollution leaching into the Chesapeake Bay.
“I think the size of the one and the sweep of the other made the General Assembly kind of choke on those and refer them to summer study,” O’Malley said in an afternoon briefing with reporters. “We will work with the leadership and with the members [before next year] in hopes of their becoming more comfortable with these proposals,” he said.
But even as O’Malley said he was disappointed in the failure of those measures, he said he would be working the phones and meeting with lawmakers to salvage the remaining elements of his agenda in the final hours before the General Assembly adjourns at midnight.
O’Malley’s plan to raise public money to increase venture capital investment in Maryland start-ups was scaled back a second time Monday, and carve-outs were made to direct money to rural areas of the state. Some form of the measure seemed likely to pass, but it was unclear whether it would accomplish as much of what O’Malley originally sought. Under the latest working version, the state would raise $70 million by letting insurance companies bid on future tax breaks and then pay their reduced taxes for those years in advance.
The governor also lamented that the fate of his bill to provide operating subsidies to horse-racing tracks remained uncertain, saying a lot of jobs and Maryland’s horse industry could suffer because of final disputes, including one over revenue from simulcasting of races.
“The racing bill that would have given us some stability and some predictability is very much hung up in the waning hours of this General Assembly session, not withstanding an inordinate amount of time, staff time and convening that’s been done over the last few months,” he said.
O’Malley also said he was tracking lawmakers’ attempts to work out differences between bills that would create reliability standards for Pepco and other utilities in the state in response to a series of extended outages, mostly in Washington’s Maryland suburbs.
The governor said he believed his appointees on the Public Service Commission have the authority to impose the standards through regulation, and he said they would do so if the legislature failed to agree to stiff enough legislation. O’Malley said his administration had backed off from imposing those regulations to let the legislature act.
Several of the governor’s lesser-known bills, including one setting up a framework for an insurance exchange under President Obama’s health-care reform, have passed. Others, including a measure to extend unemployment benefits, remain in play. The governor said he would also get involved in an attempt to prevent a Senate filibuster of a bill to give undocumented immigrants tuition breaks at state colleges.