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Annapolis lobbyist recaps '2012 1/2' legislative session

Michael V. Johansen, who represents a Washington County coalition, touched on most significant points

June 06, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Lobbyist Michael V. Johansen discusses Wednesday how the recent Maryland legislative sesssion affected Washington County. The event was part of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast series.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Michael V. Johansen, an Annapolis lobbyist who represents a Washington County coalition, recapped the 2012 Maryland General Assembly session Wednesday, going from zero to 90 days in about an hour.

He quipped that his talk at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast actually covered “2012 1/2,” noting the three-day special session last month in addition to the 90-day regular session.

Johansen touched on some of the most significant measures that passed, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, and those that failed, including an attempt to expand gambling in Maryland.

Johansen offered his take on the legislature’s inability to pass a complete package by the end of the regular session, which forced lawmakers to return for a special session to finish that work.

While the conventional wisdom was that the failure to pass a separate Prince George’s casino bill thwarted the budget process, Johansen disagreed.

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He said a larger issue was a rift between the Senate and the House on how to structure an income-tax increase.

The Senate, still bothered by the legislature’s failure to fully eliminate a budget deficit in 2007, wanted a broader approach than the House did, Johansen said.

The revenue that a new casino would have generated was tied into that friction between the chambers, he said.

Each year, the chamber of commerce holds a forum to review the most recent state legislative session.

Washington County delegation members decided last year to hold their own wrap-up forum, in addition to the chamber event. Some delegation members said the public should be able to attend at no charge, since the chamber charges for its breakfast forums.

This year, the delegation again held its own post-session review, but declined to take part in Wednesday’s chamber’s event, which was held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Halfway. About 50 people attended.

Johansen stuck to analysis, rather than his own politics, in explaining the prevailing forces and the back story behind the issues.

He said Gov. Martin O’Malley might have had unlucky timing in pushing for a gas-tax increase while prices at the pump rose.

O’Malley also failed this year in what might be his “signature issue” — offshore wind — and has two more legislative sessions in his term to get it done, Johansen said.

Johansen concluded with a look at what he called “the referendum election” in the fall. Voters will decide whether to keep President Barack Obama in office and whether to uphold a law allowing in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.

A second referendum on a new law legalizing same-sex marriage is likely, he said.

Voters also might be asked to vote on whether to overturn new congressional redistricting boundaries in Maryland and whether to allow more gambling.

Chamber President Brien J. Poffenberger said the presentation was “like a graduate seminar in Maryland government.”

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