O’Malley prepares for final bow -- Gazette.Net


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In his time in office, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has successfully pushed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, give in-state tuition rates to some undocumented students, create incentives for offshore wind energy development, repeal the death penalty, impose sweeping gun-control measures, and raise the gas tax for the first time in more than 20 years to fund transportation infrastructure.

The question becomes, what will he do next?

With one more session between himself and his term limit, O’Malley (D) is likely to shift gears and focus more on job creation next year, said Roy Meyers, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“One of the reasons it’s an important political question is that we’re looking at a very slow recovery over the next several years,” Meyers said, adding that job creation will continue to be relevant for any future office O’Malley might pursue.

And any question of what O’Malley does in the next year is couched in the assumption that he will make a run for the White House in 2016.

Meyers and many other political observers say O’Malley’s run likely will be determined by what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does — if she runs, O’Malley won’t make it far, Meyers said.

In the meantime, O’Malley should be building his national visibility, something the same-sex marriage campaign and his gun-control measures should partly accomplish, Meyers said. Whether that visibility is for better or for worse depends on your political perspective, Meyers added.

“Whether he’s far too liberal for the country is an open question for me,” Meyers said. “2016 is a long time (away), especially in political time.”

The label of “too liberal” has been avoided, to some extent, by more centrist economic policy, said Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s College.

“He’s kept budget growth relatively low, and the business community has escaped largely unscathed,” Eberly said.

Administration officials have said that while the governor’s agenda for 2014 is not yet clear, he is likely to build on previous efforts at job creation, like the Invest Maryland program — an $85 million venture capital program — and the public-private partnership bill passed this year, which outlines requirements for private investment in public projects.

“He’s adopted a more intelligent job-building strategy, rather than the smokestack-chasing policies of some states,” like investment in education and growth sectors such as biotechnology and cybersecurity, Meyers said. “That being said, there are limits to what a governor can do. The reality is it’s going to be a long slog [to recovery].”

Eberly said O’Malley might face resistance on business-friendly initiatives from some members of the Democratic caucus who are looking for Maryland to take a progressive turn on economic issues, like raising the minimum wage and requiring sick leave for all employees — two initiatives that failed this session.

And the administration is likely to be looking toward November 2014, when O’Malley’s successor will be determined, Eberly said.

“I think you’re going to see [Lt. Gov.] Anthony Brown take even more of a leadership role in the legislature,” Eberly said, especially on initiatives related to health care and education.

Brown is expected to run to succeed O’Malley, likely facing Attorney General Douglas Gansler for the Democratic nomination.

“The challenge is how they can have a session where he can be front and center, but not have memories of the gas tax and other negatives attached to him,” Eberly said.

hnunn@gazette.net