When lawmakers return in January, O’Malley has pledged to spearhead the fight to make Maryland the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, following closely in the wake of New York.
He plans to resurrect two leading environmental priorities that the General Assembly rebuffed last session — jump-starting the state’s wind-power industry and sharply limiting the use of septic systems in new residential developments. He is likely to champion increases in the state’s gas tax and so-called flush tax, casting those moves as an effort to rebuild Maryland’s transportation and sanitation infrastructure and create jobs.
In an interview, O’Malley said that with the state facing another $1 billion shortfall in its operating budget, he may propose other tax increases as well as unpopular spending cuts to close the gap.
On top of all of that, O’Malley must introduce a redistricting plan for the General Assembly. And the governor is certain to get drawn into several other high-profile issues not of his making, such as a bid to bring slot-machine gambling to Prince George’s County.
With so many issues on his plate, few in Annapolis expect the governor to prevail on every front. O’Malley did not volunteer a yardstick for success but acknowledged that some agenda items will be difficult.
“We have a lot of big issues on the horizon, and we plan to address them,” he said.
Others suggest that if he finishes with several big wins, O’Malley has a chance to bolster his legacy in Maryland and build a case for national office. But high-profile defeats could undercut his effectiveness for the rest of his term and raise questions about whether he’s ready for bigger things.
“I don’t know how you get it all done,” said Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), a leading voice in the House of Delegates. “It’s a heavy lift for one session. It may be a heavy lift for an entire term. I’ve got to tip my hat to them for their ambition.”
The governor played down any broader implications of the looming session for his future. But supporters and detractors alike see a lot at stake for O’Malley, who has served for the past year as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, taking aim at Republicans at the state and national levels.
O’Malley, who is widely expected to get the nod next month from his fellow governors to lead the DGA for a second year, has used the perch to travel the country and appear on Sunday talk shows, fueling speculation about interest in a 2016 presidential bid.
Mike Morrill, a longtime Democratic strategist in Maryland, said that whatever O’Malley’s future holds, he will benefit if he can get things done in Annapolis at a time when Washington appears so dysfunctional. “People have begun to think on the national level that even small things can’t get through,” Morrill said.