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Environmental Bills, Gaming Fail In Legislature

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Chesapeake Bay

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Even though she guided a controversial plan to regulate septic systems and helped hike a tax to support Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Delegate Maggie McIntosh could not work miracles for all the bills that came through her committee before the Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday night.

McIntosh, who chairs the House Environmental Matters Committee, could only do so much for proposals such as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to establish policies on public-private partnerships, which survived her committee but stalled before the legislators departed.

“I think we’ve worked very hard over the last year, particularly in the task force for sustainable growth to get everything lined up to pass this year,” McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said. “Did I think it was all going to happen? No. But I’m happy it did. Very happy.”

Those bills are among a number that never saw a vote, died in committees or failed on the floor.

O’Malley, a Democrat, said Monday night that he wasn’t sure why another one of his proposals to develop offshore wind energy wasn’t moving in a Senate committee, but advocates declared defeat earlier in the evening, pitting the blame on senators in the Finance Committee who would not volunteer their votes for the measure.

Some of the failed bills could return during a special session legislative leaders say is necessary to modify a budget that was passed for lack of a better compromise and also makes deep cuts to education and local governments.

Advocates lobbied hard for the wind proposal, hosting multiple rallies in front of the statehouse throughout the 90-day legislative session, but the challenge is earning the Finance Committee support, said Tommy Landers, campaign director for the advocacy group Environment Maryland.

“I think what matters is coming together and figuring out what it’s going to take to come to an agreement that works for the right people and everyone so we can actually stop delaying and move forward with offshore wind,” Landers said. “Other states are moving forward, the world is moving forward. We are missing out.”

Landers said it might also be worthwhile to bring two bills, one that would have charged a fee to energy companies who want to drill for natural gas in the western part of the state and another that would have given energy credits for investing in community solar initiatives back to lawmakers, during a special session.

However, the wind legislation may have to wait.

“It seems obvious the sooner it is, the less different things will be,” Landers said. “We just have to see where our opportunities are.”

Other lawmakers have said coming in for a special session could mean the opportunity to make another attempt at passing a revenue generating measures like a gas tax that failed to launch and a proposal to expand gambling.

Delegate Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, said he would encourage the governor to put his transportation revenue proposal, which would have applied the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline, back on the table if he calls the legislature to a special session.

“If there’s one issue that’s paramount as we move forward as a state, as a region, is we need dollars for our transportation infrastructure,” Feldman said.

The gas tax proposal appeared to have little support early in the session, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, who favors a tax hike, said it could be on the table during a special session.

O’Malley hasn’t commented on whether or when he would call the lawmakers back to Annapolis, but said Monday night that he thought a gas tax proposal could wait until next year.

Other bills that failed to gain traction in the legislature include:

–Medical Marijuana Act — Legislation would have created a Medical Marijuana Advisory Board that would be responsible for developing a system to designate debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana could be used.
–Smoking in a vehicle with a child passenger — The bill would have made it illegal to smoke in a vehicle in which a child under age 8 is riding.
–Death Penalty — Lawmakers once again decided not to advance a bill that would repeal capital punishment.
–Bag Tax — A measure that would have required a 5 cent consumer charge on each plastic carryout bag used by a store.
–Gender Identity and Discrimination — The proposal would have prohibited discrimination based on a person’s gender identity.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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