Reporting Derek Valcourt
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland lawmakers are back on the job, ushering in the 2013 season of the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon.
Derek Valcourt has more on the mountain of bills expected to pass through Annapolis this year.
Many of them are controversial and they only have 90 days to get it all done.
Under the capital dome, Maryland’s elected leaders were called to order for the official start of the session.
“I just want to welcome you back and say congratulations,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.
Democrats and their majority in both the House and the Senate plan a barrage of bills sure to ignite fierce debate. Emboldened by the Sandy Hook school massacre, tougher gun control measures are a high priority.
“No one has a right to a nuclear weapon. No one has a right to a tank and no one should have a right to military-style assault weapons and that’s the first thing that we need to do when we get back here is ban assault weapons on civil life,” said Senator Jamie Raskin.
The Republican minority promises to fight the Democrats every step of the way.
“I would say that Maryland is the most liberal state in the country along with California. And we are outnumbered, so all we can do is play defense like Ray Lewis,” said Delegate Pat McDonough.
Democrats believe they are just one Senate vote shy of repealing the death penalty this year. They’ll consider allowing wind farms off Maryland coastline to generate more renewable energy. Then there’s the budget and tough questions about what gets funding.
“We have tremendous infrastructure needs. We have a huge backlog of school construction, particularly in Baltimore City and Baltimore County,” said House Speaker Mike Busch.
Governor O’Malley wants to see more money go to transportation to alleviate the state’s traffic congestion but Republicans say funding those improvements through an increase in the gas tax or sales tax is not an option.
“The most dangerous time of the year is when the legislature is in session because that’s when people lose their rights, they get taxed more and our job down here is going to be to protect them as much as we can,” said Senator Nancy Jacobs.
There are bills to scrutinize speed camera use in Maryland, cracking down on drivers who don’t pay tolls, delaying or prohibiting fracking for natural gas and making it tougher to put lawmaker-approved bills to referendum for voter approval.
Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman Steny Hoyer made the opening remarks during Wednesday’s ceremony ringing in the start of the session.