The governor also helped to save a bill to provide operating subsidies to horse-racing tracks, saying it was important for maintaining jobs in Maryland’s horse industry.
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, had passed or were on track to pass. O’Malley has also claimed credit for reforms to state worker pensions.
On Monday night, Senate and House negotiators successfully resurrected the in-state tuition bill that earlier in the day had been declared dead.
Negotiators from the House and Senate agreed to strip the bill of language that opponents said would make it too easy for students or their parents to avoid providing proof of income tax filing as the measure requires.
Under the legislation, students would pay in-state rates at community colleges first and then could transfer to a four-year institution after getting an associate’s degree and get the in-state rate. The measure passed the Senate 27 to 19. The House approved 74 to 65.
Immigrant-rights advocates and dozens of students who would benefit from the bill watched from the House gallery, and erupted in cheers and applause after the final vote. Wearing T-shirts with the message, “I am the Maryland Dream Act,” the students lined the hallway outside the chambers to thank legislators.
On Monday afternoon when the House passed the first of two bills to raise the alcohol tax, almost every delegate opposed to the plan used a privilege to spend two minutes explaining his or her vote on the floor. This tied up the chamber for more than two hours, as a mostly partisan fight ensued — with some rural Democrats siding with Republicans .
The spectacle at times resembled a game of legislative Whac-a-Mole. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) would let an opponent speak for two minutes, only to see a half-dozen more around the room spring to their feet to demand the next two minutes.
Republicans built a litany of arguments against the increase. Their complaints revolved mainly around a notion that the Democratic majority had “met in the back room” and divvied up “the spoils” of the planned tax increase to benefit urban areas.
On Monday night, when the House took up the second bill, Busch chose not to recognize delegates as they repeatedly yelled out “Mr. Speaker,” trying to drawhis attention so that they could explain their votes. A Democratic delegate who served as parliamentarian ruled that Busch had the right to ignore them because bill opponents were deliberately using repetitive tactics to slow down the bill.
Earlier onMonday, the Senate killed a measure that sought to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender people. On a vote of 27 to 20, the chamber sent a bill back to committee that would have offered protections in housing, employment and lending. The measure passed the House two weeks ago.
Equality Maryland, the state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights lobby, said it was “appalled” by the Senate action.
Meanwhile, a bill designed to protect severely ill Marylanders who use medical marijuana for medical purposes was shipped to the governor late Monday. The Senate gave final passage to the measure, which allows patients to use their illness as a legal defense, on a 39 to 7 vote.
Environmentalists who typically hold considerable sway with Maryland’s Democratic majority saw their losses compounded as time ran out in the session. In addition to rejecting O’Malley’s offshore wind plan in recent days, the legislature late Monday approved a measure to classify incineration of solid waste as a renewable energy source on par with that of solar and wind.
The Sierra Club, Environment Maryland and others warned that bill would amount to “cheating” on Maryland’s law to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources. A measure backed by environmentalists that died in the Senate would have created a near moratorium on drilling for natural gas in an underground rock formation in Western Maryland.