Gun Control, Death Penalty, and Transportation Top the Legislature’s Agenda

As the General Assembly prepares to open this week, issues such as gun control, the death penalty and transportation are at the top of the agenda.  As reported by the Washington Post,

In the wake of last month’s rampage in Newtown, Conn., gun control is likely to come to the fore in this year’s session.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said last month that he is likely to propose legislation that could include a ban on assault rifles, among other gun-control measures, in addition to proposals involving mental health and school safety.

“I think there’s been a change of heart,” O’Malley said, “and a greater open-mindedness in the wake of the murder of the innocent in Connecticut for people to take a look at especially assault weapons.”

With respect to the death penalty,

…the governor has come under strong pressure from NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, among others, to once again lead a charge to repeal the death penalty. Repeal efforts have been stalled since 2009 because of a 6-5 majority in favor of capital punishment in a Senate committee.

[Senate President] Miller said last week that he would see the measure gets a floor vote if O’Malley can line up enough support in the Senate. Busch said that if the Senate passes repeal, the proposal would get a fair hearing in the House. He declined to predict the outcome, though death penalty opponents say they’re confident they have the votes.

Actions taken over the past couple years to eliminate the structural deficit mean that significant cuts or tax increases will not be necessary to balance the budget.  However, transportation funding may still be on the table.  As reported by the Baltimore Sun (limited free views available),

O’Malley also would like more money for transportation, but any move to raise the gas or sales taxes would face fierce resistance. Administration officials say they’re still testing the waters to see which proposals — if any — might be palatable to legislators as the economy slowly recovers.

“The gas prices probably eat into people’s paychecks more than anything else,” said Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Miller says lawmakers may need to consider a nontraditional approach in which urban taxpayers, who depend on mass transit, would pay more than rural areas. But Busch says such a system could be seen as unfair. He noted that populous Montgomery County contributes a disproportionate share of non-transportation tax revenue toward such priorities as school construction in poorer, rural counties.

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