O'Malley's end-of-session to-do list growing
Gov. Martin O'Malley has one week to extract his signature proposals from legislative committees and usher them to approval in the full General Assembly.
But even as he labors to save efforts such as offshore wind and an investment fund for small businesses, another agenda item is calling out for O'Malley's attention: pension reform.
Lawmakers grew so frustrated Friday that they took the weekend to cool down. Now, they must work to settle differences on state employee pensions and health care as they race to complete their budget duties.
In an interview last week, O'Malley said he had aimed high this session.
"Those are big, difficult issues that require a lot of understanding and a lot of outreach within the General Assembly and within the public," he said. "I didn't run for a second term to do easy things."
Critics say there's another reason his agenda has foundered: his new role in Washington as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. He has spent sizable chunks of the 90-day state legislative session in the nation's capital.
Senate Republicans have questioned the governor's leadership throughout the 90-day session, including in several recent dispatches.
"The governor's press office has been working overtime to dispute the widely acknowledged fact that Gov. Martin O'Malley has been AWOL for most of the 2011 session," the Senate Republicans wrote on Saturday. "O'Malley has recently popped up in appearances in the legislative hallways to try and rescue his languishing legislative package."
O'Malley contends that he is no busier now than in previous years and that he is readily available.
Maryland's proximity to the capital, he said, makes it easy to travel back and forth in short order.
"It hasn't taken any more time," he said, "but it has become a higher target for the Republicans because I became chair."
So what's on tap for this final week? O'Malley's public schedule notes an appearance at the Orioles' home opener today, the Board of Public Works on Wednesday and a Smart Growth forum Friday, among other items.
It stands to reason that he'll also spend many hours working to win over legislators in hopes of scoring policy victories in his first year of the second term.
Read more from our interview with O'Malley, including his comments that the same-sex marriage debate contributed to the session's odd pace.