The Washington Post

Jobs, schools measures round out O’Malley’s legislative agenda

NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous, left, stands alongside Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at a rally in support of repealing Maryland's death penalty on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Besides pushing measures against gun violence and a repeal of the death penalty, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is asking lawmakers to approve several jobs and schools initiatives, including one that would boost education funding in Prince George’s County.

O’Malley on Friday released a list of his legislative priorities for the 90-day session.

Many had been previously advertised, including the expansion of early voting and a renewed push to provide incentives for construction of an offshore wind farm off the coast of Maryland.

The latter measure, which failed in the last two annual sessions, would be financed in part by residential electric consumers, who could see their monthly bills rise by up to $1.50.

Another proposal would make changes needed in Maryland law to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of Medicaid.

Lawmakers are also being asked to reauthorize a 2008 law backed by O’Malley that allows collection of DNA from people arrested for violent crimes before they have been convicted. The constitutionality of the practice is being examined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Absent from O’Malley’s agenda is a transportation funding bill. Aides said he is continuing to mull whether to introduce a measure similar to a bill last year that would have applied the state sales tax to gasoline purchases, raising more than $600 million a year for road and transit project.

This year’s agenda, meanwhile, attempts to make good on a promise to Prince George’s lawmakers to change a funding formula that affects how state school funding is distributed.

For years, Prince George’s has complained that a calculation based on “net taxable income” does not capture late income tax filers. That, they say, unfairly helps wealthier counties, including Montgomery, where more taxpayers file for extensions.

Changing the formula has been a priority for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who says the existing terms have cost his county $20 million a year.

O’Malley’s plan, phased in over five years, would provide a more favorable formula for Prince George’s and several other counties while holding Montgomery harmless.

Other education-related initiatives in O’Malley’s legislative package include two competitive grant funds.

One would provide money to local school districts for “digital learning innovation;” the other would help local school systems and higher-education institutions to create early college access programs.

Also on O’Malley’s agenda: some job-creation initiatives. One measure seeks to remove barriers to employment that military veterans can face when moving into civilian employment. Another provides workforce training collaborations between businesses, local governments and non-profits.

O’Malley is also making another run at passing a bill to establish guidelines for public-private partnerships in Maryland. Similar legislation failed last year.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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