General Assembly Session “Going to Get Very Busy”

Today’s Washington Post covers a number of actors discussing the 2011 General Assembly session, and the perceived “slow start.”

From the article:

The governor’s budget for the coming year, which stuck to a campaign pledge to not raise taxes, has done too little to tackle Maryland’s long-term funding deficiencies in transportation, health care and increasingly problematic formulas for sharing money among the state’s school districts, say Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are deep into hearings on the fiscal plan. Shifts in student enrollment and property revaluations could send millions more dollars to Montgomery County schools this year at the expense of those in Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

All of this has spawned more than a dozen competing bills to increase taxes on everything from alcohol to gasoline, and nearly all the proposals remain in play as the legislature this week passes the midpoint of its session.

The weighty fiscal battles, however, will take a back seat for at least another week to the General Assembly’s impending debate over legalizing same-sex marriage. Other hot-button social issues, including bills to legalize medical marijuana and to give in-state tuition breaks to undocumented immigrants, also could come to a head and shift attention from the governor’s priorities and tax proposals to very late in the session.

“Each session has its own rhythm and this one got off to a slow start, but it’s going to get very busy,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).

Part of that slow start stemmed from the dozens of new lawmakers in Annapolis feeling their way, as well as from the beginning of a four-year cycle in which lawmakers and the governor introduce controversial plans they might expect will take more than one year to pass.

But House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said there also doesn’t seem to be agreement to tackle the tough budget choices that this year requires.

“Everybody understands the problem, but there doesn’t seem to be a coordinated, real plan to deal with it, other than to hope that the recession ends,” Busch said.

Read the full coverage here.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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