Just announced: O'Malley's legislative agenda
Gov. Martin O'Malley this afternoon released his legislative agenda for the year -- a package of 15 or so bills that focus on the economy, health care and the environment. Pension reform, previewed Friday when the governor unveiled his budget, is one major element. O'Malley, a former mayor of Baltimore, also is pursuing gun crime legislation that the city has been after for years.
One unanticipated new item would criminalize child neglect. "According to Maryland's child advocacy community, Maryland is the only state without a statute criminalizing child neglect," the governor wrote in his description of the proposed legislation.
Two more familiar ideas also appear on the governor's safety agenda: a bill to reduce the number of "good-time credits" a person convicted of a gun crime can receive in prison and a proposal to "close a loophole" on gun crimes by making the five years without parole penalty apply not just to violent criminals who use a handgun, but also ones who use a shotgun or rifle.
The centerpiece of O'Malley's legislative agenda -- his fifth as governor -- is the creation of a $100 million venture capital fund called Invest Maryland. Sun business reporter Gus Sentementes took a close look at the program in Saturday's Sun, writing: "The state would invest in small businesses and start-up companies — partially through the dormant Maryland Venture Fund — and would reap both the risks and rewards."
Similar program in other states (Louisiana, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Texas and the District of Columbia) have been criticized for "being expensive and ineffective in terms of creating jobs and new businesses," Sentementes wrote. "But O'Malley's plan differs in a few key areas: Maryland would invest in companies with expectations of recouping its entire principal investment, plus 80 percent of the profits."
Another plan O'Malley will push this session requires power companies to buy electricity from offshore wind turbines off Maryland's coast. The idea excites environmentalists who believe it will help make Maryland a center for wind energy. No turbines exist in Maryland waters, but President Obama has pledged to expedite the permitting process.
On pension reform, O'Malley laid out a plan to shore-up the state's sagging system by reducing benefits for new employees and requiring current workers to pay more into the program. It saves the state $100 million next year, but has already sparked outrage from the leadership of state workers' unions.
And Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown once again will lead a health care effort: His role this session will be to push a proposal that creates the framework for insurance exchanges, a prerequisite for enacting the president health care overhaul.
-- By Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey