Gov. Martin O'Malley literally got everything he wanted in this session. Every bill his administration proposed was passed during the session. Some of the higher profile and controversial measures are bringing this criticism from opponents and even a few supporters that the governor, and in extension the state, is now too liberal.The Democratic Party in Maryland under the leadership of Gov. Martin O'Malley has been chalking some impressive wins in policy and politics. A total of 766 bills were enacted into law by the General Assembly and the Governor, and all in a period of about 4 months of straight up regular order. Just look at what the majority party has done this session:
"I don't care. Call me anything but late for dinner," O'Malley said. "The real test is are we making progress or not making progress. And I consider myself a performance-driven progressive."
- Gun control. The Democratic legislature passed a sweeping, expansive law that banned a slew of assault weapons, required fingerprinting for purchase of handguns, and limited magazine rounds to 10 bullets.
- Gas taxes. The legislature raised the gas tax and dedicated the funds to infrastructure projects.
- Death penalty. Democrats abolished it.
- Marijuana. The legislature created a process for lowering the criminal penalties for possession and approved it for medicinal use.
- Offshore wind. Governor O'Malley long sought Atlantic wind farm is approved and funded.
This is all after coming off a big statewide victory for Democrats last fall that saw voter approval of marriage equality and the DREAM Act. This session also saw a crackdown on cyberbullying, put an end to "debtors jail," protected foster children from identity theft, a new law to fund skills training for workers, expanded mass transit, approved more funding for research and development, held down tuition costs, eased professional licensing hurdles for veterans, and did it all while reducing the small state deficit.
Democrats have large majorities in both houses in Maryland and a governor who is an experienced chief executive. So one would not be out of order in finding these results somewhat expected in a heavily Democratic state. However, it is notable that many of the initiatives pushed by Maryland progressives faced tough opposition within the Party. For example, the wind farm bill had been stopped in committee by its Democratic chairman for years. But this year Dems had enough and stripped him of his chairmanship and put in somebody willing to play ball.
In the realm of politics, Maryland Dems successfully redrew the district of one of their two Republican Congressmen and last fall he was gone. The new heavily Democratic map was overwhelmingly approved by the voters. All this butt-kicking is leaving Republicans in the state divided and in turmoil. Speculation about Gov. O'Malley's future as a possible presidential contender in 2016 is perculating.
Now certainly it wasn't all roses: an anti-fracking bill died in the House and some other legislative wins passed one House but not the other. However, given the sheer magnitude of problems confronting this country, Maryland isn't sitting on its hands like some Democratically controlled states or sticking its head in the sand like all the Republican ones. The overall good health of Maryland Democrats is something the Washington Democrats could certainly consider a model of winning.