Several measures — including two high-profile environmental initiatives of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), bids to spur wind power and curb septic systems — were left to be studied this summer. And several other bills that fell short, including those to permit same-sex marriage and to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, will be brought back next year, supporters vow.
“There are a lot of things we want to do in this four-year term, and we’ve only begun accomplishing them,” House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) said.
Lawmakers will get a chance to do that sooner than usual.
They are scheduled to return this fall for a special session to redraw congressional district lines, and there is already talk of using the session to take on transportation funding and other issues.
Legislators cites several reasons for so much leftover business. The same-sex marriage debate monopolized their time and energy during a key stretch of the session, some of the governor’s proposals were particularly complicated, and there were an unusually large number of freshman lawmakers.
Annapolis also has a history of taking its time. Advocates of two issues that succeeded this year — direct shipment of wine from out-of-state vineyards and an alcohol tax increase — had spent years trying.
O’Malley had already started thinking about a special session agenda before the regular session ended. During a meeting last month with the two presiding officers of the legislature, he floated the idea of raising the gas tax to benefit transportation projects.
No commitments were made, and in an interview this week, O’Malley said he has not decided whether to seek new money for roads and mass transit during a special session, despite what he acknowledged are “tremendous transportation needs.”
Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery) said he thinks transportation should be “priority No. 1” in the fall. Lawmakers held off during the 90-day session on a bill sponsored by Garagiola that would have raised the gas tax by 10 cents and allowed for future increases based on inflation in transportation construction costs.
The state’s 23.5-cent-per-gallon tax on gas was last increased in 1992, when the average price per gallon nationwide was $1.14.
Garagiola’s bill, which also called for increasing vehicle registration fees, would have raised more than $500 million a year.
Not all lawmakers think the timing is right. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who has championed gas tax increases in the past, said the legislature would have a hard time moving forward “as long as there’s still uncertainty in the Middle East and gas prices are as high as they are.”