The markedly different receptions say a lot about what has happened to O’Malley in the months since his strong reelection in a year that favored Republicans elsewhere: His rising national profile has done little to help him pass tough bills in Maryland.
Since his second defeat of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), O’Malley has ascended to the chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association, become a draw on the party speaking circuit and traveled to Washington to trade policy ideas with the White House and congressional leaders.
But aside from some victories on the state budget, the governor will have few marquee accomplishments to tout when the heavily Democratic General Assembly adjourns its 90-day session Monday.
Besides shelving the wind bill, lawmakers decided that further study was needed of a proposal to curtail the use of septic systems, which O’Malley championed during his State of the State address. A third high-profile initiative, the creation of a $100 million venture capital fund, stalled, but a scaled-back version could pass on the session’s final day.
Lawmakers say the resistance O’Malley has faced isn’t personal.
“The legislature is not supposed to roll over,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), an O’Malley ally on most issues. “We’ve got a lot of experienced legislators, veterans. Most of them want to work with the governor. . . . If there’s a reason some things haven’t come together, it’s because we don’t have all the answers we need yet.”
What O’Malley has achieved has been hard-fought but did not fully capitalize on the momentum he had coming out of the election.
In a year in which Wisconsin’s budget battle has come to symbolize dysfunction in state governments, Maryland lawmakers passed O’Malley’s spending plan — which closed a $1.6 billion shortfall — with relatively little dissent.
Pension reforms included in O’Malley’s budget were resisted by union leaders in Maryland but enacted by the legislature with minimal drama.
And a majority of the roughly two dozen bills O’Malley backed this session have passed or will pass in some form. But most are modest measures, including those to step up monitoring of prescription drug abuse, as many states have, and to make child neglect a crime, as it is in most other states.
A few other bills proposed or “adopted” by O’Malley during the session remain in jeopardy. A bill, for which he testified, to exempt family farms from the “death tax” went nowhere, with lawmakers citing the tough budget climate. And the fate of an O’Malley bill to subsidize the horse-racing industry won’t be known until Monday.