One week to go...
The Sun's State House crew sums up the remaining issues before the General Assembly this year, and compared to what we've seen in the past, they look rather manageable. The budget conference committee seems to be moving right along, despite all the cuts they've dealt with this year. The death penalty, speed cameras, texting while driving, climate change, etc., have already been dealt with.
Re-regualtion of electricity always has the potential to become a huge fight, but with Economic Matters Committee Chairman Del. Dereck Davis skeptical of the bill, it's hard to see major momentum for its passage so late in the session. Lawmakers, Davis included, are wary of big changes to the state's utility laws after approving what many now consider an ill-advised deregulation scheme in 1999. Davis is smart and well respected in the House, and it's unlikely that his committee, much less the whole chamber, would buck him on something like this.
That leaves us with illegal immigrant driver's licenses. For those who missed the news last week, both chambers are moving ahead with plans to bring Maryland into compliance with the federal Real ID law but with a key difference: The Senate wants to require proof of legal residence for all new licenses and renewals. The House wants to grandfather in illegal immigrants who now have licenses and create a two-tier system, so that their licenses would be labeled "not federally compliant" for the purposes of getting into federal buildings, boarding airplanes, etc. Gov. O'Malley says he'll sign either bill but prefers the House approach.
There was some news on this front over the weekend in that the Senate dropped a clause from its budget bill that would have denied funding for the MVA to provide licenses to illegal immigrants. I wouldn't read too much into that, though. The two chambers will fight out the policy issue in legislation; no need to hold up a $14 billion budget over it.
Two factors could make this issue the big fight of the last week of the session. For one, there's pressure to do something before the legislature adjourns because of a federal deadline to come into compliance with Real ID. The other is that there's not obvious compromise. One side or the other is going to have to cave.