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Some area lawmakers uneasy with outcome of 2013 session

April 08, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Legislators in Annapolis spent a marathon day Monday in sessions spread throughout the day and the evening as they addressed business one last time before the Maryland General Assembly adjourned at midnight.

Republican lawmakers from Washington County expressed fears that the state had veered too far to the left during the current session with a gun-control measure, the repeal of the death penalty and a hike in the gas tax.

But Gov. Martin O’Malley appeared to be what could be called a celebratory mood, thanking Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert/Prince George’s, and Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, for the smooth and orderly passages of some of the measures.

The state house was crowded with visitors as legislators exchanged small talk between sessions while their staff attended to last-minute tasks.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, who is the chair of the Washington County delegation, said he always feels a little melancholy on the last day of the session because there are some colleagues that he will not see until the General Assembly meets again next year.

“I think for some of us at 12:01 (a.m.) we get in our cars and try to get as far away from here as possible,” Serafini said.

He said that although he was pleased that most bills introduced by the Washington County delegation had passed, he said he was worried that “we have pushed things, in my opinion, very, very far left.”

“I worry that this body is out of touch,” he said.

O’Malley was decidedly in a much more upbeat mood as he talked to a scrum of reporters early afternoon Monday.

“The legislature and the leadership ... have managed these tough issues in a very orderly way,” he said, a reference to some of the most debated issues during the session such as gun control and the repeal of the death penalty.

He said it’s quite possible some of the legislation approved this year might be petitioned to a referendum and placed on the 2014 ballot. The governor noted that the Dream Act, which allows some students who are not in the United States legally to pay in-state tuition at Maryland colleges, passed with 58 percent of the vote last year, after opponents petitioned it to the ballot.

“The people of our state are smart and they’re fair,” O’Malley said. “I mean, look at the way the Dream Act passed overwhelmingly. When initially it was passed in the legislature, there weren’t a whole lot of people that might have predicted that, but I knew in the fullness of time — I felt in the fullness of time — that the people of our state were smart and fair and intelligent and so any of these issues could go to referendum and you know that’s our system.”

The session also marks a year when a variety of bills that have stalled over the years were passed. For example, O’Malley pushed to abolish the death penalty in 2009, but fell short of full repeal. His offshore wind proposal stalled two years in a row. And the governor’s gas tax proposal stalled last year. All passed in 2013.

One county legislator, Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, already is testing the waters on which measures passed during the current session could be possibly taken to the ballot through a petition drive.

Parrott, who runs a website called MDPetitions.com, said last week that he was trying to gauge support among state residents who had signed previous petitions.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said he was sad that three months of intense legislative activity was coming to an end.

“We have done well as a county and I think that the interim between now and next session, we will have an opportunity to gear up again ... and see what more we can bring to the county, but I think we’ve fared very well,” he said.

Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said it was very apparent during the current session of the General Assembly that the notion of “one Maryland has gone by the wayside.”

“It is very apparent that we have far more in common these days with our friends along the (Interstate) 81 corridor and Pennsylvania and West Virginia than we do with the balance of the state of Maryland,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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