The final day capped an extraordinarily productive 90-day session that was filled with several high-profile bills, many of them decidedly liberal. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who was seeking to cement his legacy before he risks becoming a lame duck next year, pushed through a full agenda, including several bills that previously failed.
Even before lawmakers arrived Monday, O’Malley had secured wins on one of the most sweeping gun-control packages in the nation; the state’s first gas tax increase since 1992; the repeal of the death penalty; and a measure to broaden Maryland’s use of renewable energy by providing incentives for an offshore wind farm.
Other bills passed in recent days would expand a program that allows illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses and grant additional authority to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) over the governance of his jurisdiction’s schools.
“Are we the Southern state that we used to be? No, we’re not,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) told reporters during a break between voting sessions. “The state has become more progressive, there’s no doubt about it. Maryland does look liberal. . . . That’s good news to some, bad news to others.”
A relatively clear path to adjournment Monday stood in marked contrast to last year’s session, when brinkmanship over the state budget and gambling legislation led to the session’s collapse on an acrimonious final night.
The traditional midnight confetti and balloon drops were scotched, and O’Malley wound up summoning lawmakers to Annapolis for two special sessions to finish their work.
“This has to be the most orderly conclusion that I’ve seen,” said O’Malley, speaking of the seven regular sessions that have taken place since his arrival in 2007. His second terms ends in January 2015.
There were several reasons that measures that had failed before reached a tipping point this year. Some benefited from more sympathetic lawmakers elected in 2010. And some were helped by outside events.
The governor’s gun package, which includes an assault weapons ban and tough licensing requirements for gun purchases, emerged in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings. Talk got far more serious in Maryland about a transportation funding package after a plan was championed by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican.