Session To Start: O’Malley Talks Taxes; Kamenetz Unveils Wish List

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Robert Lang and Associated Press

WBAL’s David Collins and Robert Lang talk to Governor Martin O’Malley about his tax proposal.

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State Senators Norman Stone and Kathy Klausmeier are both Democrats who oppose raising the gas tax.

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The 430th Session of the Maryland General Assembly starts Wednesday at noon.

The first day is largely ceremonial, although the 141 members of the House of Delegates are expected to re-elect Anne Arundel County Democratic Delegate Michael Busch as Speaker of the House for the 10th year in a row.  Busch becomes the longest serving Maryland House Speaker.  The 47 members of the Maryland Senate are expected to re-elect Thomas V. “Mike” Miller as the Senate President for the 26th year in a row.

Governor Martin O’Malley is due to address each chamber, and by the end of the day will formally introduce a legislative redistricting plan.  The state constitution requires lawmakers to revise the boundaries of the state’s 47 legislative districts, every ten years. The governor is expected to introduce a plan that increases the number of “minority majority districts” where African-Americans or Hispanics outnumber whites.

Due to population losses, Baltimore City loses one of its six legislative districts.  That district will bed merged with the one that now covers the Randallstown and Lochearn sections of Baltimore County.

Republicans criticize the plan for breaking up predominantly Republican districts.  Lawmakers have until February 24 to approve their own redistricting plan, or else the governor’s plan automatically becomes law.  

CLICK HERE to read the latest redistricting plan.

Lawmakers are expected to consider more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in the next 90 days.

As of Tuesday morning 45 bills were introduced in the Senate, and 47 bills were introduced in the House.

CLICK HERE to the most current list of bills introduced in the House.

CLICK HERE to see the most current list of bills introduced in the Senate.

Among the Senate bills introduced so far, one to allow table games at Maryland slot casinos.  Another bill would require any increases in tolls on state bridges, highways or tunnels to be approved by the legislature as well as the Maryland Transportation Authority.  The Authority voted to raise tolls last September.

Among the House bills introduced so far, one that legalizes medical marijuana.  Another bill would keep the names of those who sign petitions to put laws on a referendum ballot confidential.

Last year between the House and Senate lawmakers considered more than 2,300 bills and resolutions.  Only 707 bills became law, and one resolution passed both chambers.

O’Malley is expected to ask lawmakers to increase the gas tax, and the tax on septic systems.  The governor is also expected to ask lawmakers to legalize same sex marriage.  That bill passed the Senate last year, but was taken off the House floor when supporters discovered they did not have enough votes.

O’Malley Tries To Sell Gas Tax, “Flush Tax” Hikes

The governor is telling lawmakers and reporters that the money these tax hikes will generate will build new roads, bridges and municipal sewage projects, in an effort to create new construction jobs.

“I’m sure that there will be those who will say, ‘oh scary scary times, taxes and fees.’ Look the one penny that all of us had to pay on the sales tax, three years ago, happened to be the one penny that helped us to weather this recession,” O’Malley told WBAL Tuesday.

O’Malley was referring to the 20% increase in the state sales tax that lawmakers approved in a special session in 2007.

The governor is rejecting criticism from Republicans who say this session is all about “taxes and fees.”

“I think that is a gross mischaracterization.  What we are going to be focusing on in this session is our jobs recovery.  Making the investments that we have to make in order to…expand our recovery,” O’Malley said.

The governor also said that he never told voters when he ran for re-election in 2010 that he would seek another tax or fee increase if he was elected to a second term.

“Pointedly, I was asked, ‘will you promise not to raise another tax or fee as long as you are governor?’  I refused to do that.  So please, spare me the bait and switch sanctimony here,” O’Malley told WBAL’s David Collins.

During the 2010 campaign, O’Malley criticized Republican Bob Ehrlich for raising fees while he was governor.

Republicans have already criticized the O’Malley tax proposal.  Republican leaders in both the House and Senate say the members of their caucuses won’t vote for the plan.

Some Democrats are also criticizing the governor’s tax proposals.

“Gas is at an all time high.  It’s come down.  It’s gone up, but it’s at an all time high, and it’s a terrible time to impose an additional tax.  I don’t intend to support it,” Baltimore County Democratic Senator Norman Stone told WBAL News.

“I worry about the working men and women who are going out, making a few dollars an hour, and have to pay extra extra money all of the time.  I’m pretty much there with know gas tax,” Baltimore County Democratic Senator Kathy Klausmeier told WBAL News.

O’Malley has not formally introduced his gas tax proposal.

Last summer, a commission recommended raising the gas tax by 5-cents a gallon each year over a three year period.

As for the “flush tax,” O’Malley is expected to propose at least doubling the $30 fee owners of septic systems pay, as well as the $2.50 added to monthly municipal sewer bills.

Kamenetz Asks Lawmakers For School Construction, Transportation Money, and Liquor Changes

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says the county has some of the oldest school buildings in the state, and that’s why the county deserves an additional $70-million in school construction and renovation money.

Kamenetz made the request when he unveiled the county’s legislative agenda to members of the county’s House and Senate Delegations today.

Kamenetz told lawmakers that some of the state money will go to reimbursing the county for building new high schools in Dundalk and Sollers Point. 

As Kamenetz was unveiling his proposal, Governor Martin O’Malley was unveiling his own proposal for $370-million in school construction money statewide.

Kamenetz praised the O’Malley proposal, noting that it is larger than last year.  However, he said the county deserves the $70-million it is requesting.

Kamenetz is also asking for millions to improve the intersection at Reisterstown Road and Painters Mill Road in Owings Mills.  He says the project is needed to handle increased traffic for Metro Centre site, as well as plans to replace the Owings Mills Mall with an outdoor “town center” style shopping complex.

Kamenetz is also seeking a relocated and expanded MARC train station near Martin State Airport.  He says that would handle increased traffic related to the expansion of the nearby Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Kamenetz’s agenda includes changes in the way the county transfers and awards liquor licenses, and he wants lawmakers to allow police to enforce a two hour restriction on handicapped parking spaces.

No Changes In House GOP Leadership

The House Republican Caucus has re-elected Delegate Anthony O’Donnell to be minority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates.

The caucus also announced Tuesday that Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, has been re-elected minority whip.

O’Donnell, who represents Calvert County, has been a delegate since 1995. Haddaway-Riccio has served in the House since 2003.

Maryland’s 90-day legislative session begins Wednesday in Annapolis.

Six Lawmakers Running For Congress

A mixture of political circumstances in Maryland is prompting about a half-dozen state legislators to make congressional bids this year.

For one thing, state legislators get to keep their seats in the General Assembly if they lose. That’s because state lawmakers aren’t up for re-election until 2014, giving them two years before they have to worry about running again to remain in Annapolis if they are defeated in 2012 congressional races.

“So there’s really no loss in running for a promotion,” said Todd Eberly, an assistant professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Redistricting also is playing a big role in Maryland’s newly drawn 6th Congressional District. Both Republicans and Democrats view 10-term U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in western Maryland as vulnerable in a district that now includes a significant portion of Montgomery County.

The change through redistricting drew an outcry from Maryland Republicans, because it added more Democrats to the once-solidly Republican district in western and north-central Maryland. But that’s not stopping Republicans from entering the fray to try and knock off the 85-year-old incumbent.

“Some of it isn’t very surprising,” Eberly said. “The congressional districts have been redrawn such that members of the assembly find themselves in changed districts where they think, ‘Maybe, I have a chance.'”

Some Republicans might also think more GOP voters may be motivated to come to the polls in 2012.

A Maryland law that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition under certain circumstances is headed to the ballot for voters to decide. Also, if lawmakers approve legalizing gay marriage this session, it’s widely believed that measure will be petitioned to the ballot as well. That would provide another incentive for Republican voters to show up in November, Eberly noted.

With Wednesday’s filing deadline approaching, the 6th District has drawn a crowded field of seven GOP candidates.

Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, a former minority leader in the state Senate, is running. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick, announced Tuesday she’s in the race. Robert Coblentz, Robin Ficker, Joseph Krysztoforski and Brandon Rippeon also have filed to run as Republicans. Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney, a former state senator, announced Tuesday he is not running, and he endorsed Bartlett.

Maryland Republicans currently hold two of the state’s eight U.S. House seats. Democrats are looking at Bartlett’s 6th District in hopes of picking up a seventh Democratic seat.

State Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, will be running against entrepreneur John Delaney in the Democratic primary. Two other Democrats also have filed to run, Charles Bailey and Milad Pooran.

Some Maryland Democratic incumbents are facing a challenge from Republican state lawmakers.

Republican Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, the minority leader in the House of Delegates, is taking on U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, in Maryland’s 5th Congressional District in southern Maryland. Glen Troy Morton and David Hill also are running for the GOP nomination.

Maryland political observers predict an uphill climb for Republicans against one of Maryland’s most powerful politicians. Plus, there’s always the obstacle of registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 2-1 margin statewide.

“Steny Hoyer is not only a Democrat and an incumbent, but he’s a high-ranking member of the House leadership who can bring many benefits to his constituents,” said Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

Still, Crenson noted that Republicans, even if they lose their congressional races, will achieve a higher level of visibility for when they run for re-election to the General Assembly in 2014.

Republican state Sen. Nancy Jacobs is seeking to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District. She is in a four-way Republican primary. Larry Smith, a former aide to Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, is running. Vladmir Degen and Howard Orton are in the primary as well.

“I think a bunch of it is wishful thinking,” said Donald Norris, chairman of the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “My sense is that people like O’Donnell and Jacobs are mistaking a national mood that is anti-Washington for a mood that is anti-Ruppersberger and anti-Hoyer, and I don’t think that that mood exists in Maryland.”

Harris, for his part, has yet to draw a Republican challenger for a primary in the 1st Congressional District, which includes all of the Eastern Shore, as well as parts of Cecil, Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties. Two Democrats have filed to challenge the first-term congressman: John LaFerla and Wendy Rosen.

Democrat Frank Kratovil, who served a term representing a swing district before he was defeated by Harris in 2010, decided not to run. He was recently appointed to a judgeship by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The Democrat-controlled legislature decided to make the 6th more favorable to Democrats, instead of trying to do so in the 1st. Harris’ district was redrawn to take in more conservative parts of the state.

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, who was opposed to redistricting changes that moved the 4th Congressional District out of Montgomery County, has drawn two Democratic primary opponents so far, Ian Garner and George McDermott.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin is facing a primary challenge from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s. Seven other candidates who are not well-known have filed to run against Cardin. Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino is running as a Republican for Cardin’s seat, along with nine other GOP candidates.

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