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O’Malley Works Bills That Have Run Into Resistance

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has run into difficulties this session with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly on high-profile parts of his legislative agenda, has been adding more of a personal touch in recent days in hopes of persuading lawmakers to support priority measures that have run into resistance.

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn April 11, and key bills backed by the governor remain in question down the home stretch.

O’Malley, a Democrat, made appearances in both the House and Senate on Friday morning, and he talked to reporters about some of the difficulties in trying to pass measures with significant costs during a tough budget year. They include a bill to develop offshore wind and a measure to create a $100 million tax credit program to help high-tech industries get start-up money.

“Everything is hard in these times,” O’Malley said. “We have to balance and move forward at the same time, and sometimes we kid ourselves because of the magnitude of the cuts into believing that balancing alone is enough, but it’s not enough.”

O’Malley said he has been meeting one-on-one with lawmakers troubled by some of his centerpiece proposals.

The governor ran into an early setback in the legislative session on a bill that aimed to reduce water pollution by
restricting septic systems at new major subdivisions. O’Malley surprised lawmakers with the proposal during his State of the State speech in February. Rural lawmakers in both parties objected to it because of the potential for hurting development, and lawmakers pushed instead to study the issue.

O’Malley said the session got off to a slow start, which he attributed to lawmakers coming off of a tough election cycle as well as contentious debates over bills involving social issues such as gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. The gay marriage bill died in the House. The tuition bill passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, noted O’Malley’s presence in the Senate on Friday as “unusual.”

“I think he’s stepping it up in the last two weeks of the session,” said Miller, adding that he urged the governor during a
meeting last week to personally lobby senators.

After concerns about his offshore wind bill arose, O’Malley spent a week talking individually with House lawmakers, and later senators, in an attempt to salvage his centerpiece measure.

Talk of studying the governor’s wind bill — which would effectively delay the measure a year — bubbled up last week.

Lawmakers say the governor’s aides have been working hard on the wind bill. Delegate Dereck Davis, who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee, said O’Malley’s chief legislative aide, Joseph Bryce, has been in regular contact.

“For the past couple of weeks, I think I’ve heard from him literally once every day, saying: ‘Is there anything we can do? Is there any information we can provide you?’ Stuff like that,” Davis, D-Prince George’s, said.

O’Malley said it’s not easy to push for legislation that could add 40 cents or $2 to an average monthly electric bill for a
family. Still, he said renewable energy would save people money in the long run.

I think the value of having a renewable, constant supply of energy is worth the small cost up front, especially when it
promises long-term savings to every Marylander, because as fossil fuels rise in their commodity price, the wind, once it’s built, stays constant,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley also is meeting with lawmakers reluctant about his Invest Maryland bill, which would create the $100 million tax credit to help high-tech industries come to the state. The governor said lawmakers are considering amendments to the bill, but he said he’s confident they will pass the legislation.

“Part of the question they balance is: ‘Hey, can we afford to do this given the financial and economic challenges’ and weighing that against, ‘Can we afford not to do this in the competition for jobs and this change to a new innovation economy?”‘ O’Malley said.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, also said he thought a bill would pass, even if it doesn’t end up having all that O’Malley is seeking.

“I don’t know whether it goes through intact, but I think there’s going to be a bill that comes out that’s going to be
modeled to try to create jobs,” Busch said.

O’Malley attended a forum in Hyattsville early Friday morning on combatting AIDS, but quickly returned to Annapolis to attend Maryland Day celebrations in the House and Senate, and lobby lawmakers while he was there.

Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery and a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that must first approve the governor’s $100 million venture fund, said he met personally with O’Malley Friday morning and expected the proposal to pass.

Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, D-Baltimore, who also sits on the budget panel, looked surprised when Madaleno said that.

She said she had not heard from the governor.

“Well, that’s a mistake, the bill’s going down now,” Madaleno joked.

When the governor’s priorities are in trouble, he generally puts in more face time with lawmakers, Jones-Rodwell said.

“If it’s in trouble, this is how it typically works out.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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