O'Malley's Speech Pushes Ambitious Agenda

1/30/2013, 4:59 p.m.

In his seventh State of the State address on Wednesday in Annapolis, Gov. Martin O'Malley urged lawmakers to continue pushing forward on gun control, job creation and death penalty repeal -- issues that some say he's using to position himself for higher office.

In the 30-minute speech themed, "Better Choices,Better Results," O'Malley, 50, allso congratulated lawmakers for past accomplishments aligned with education and employment initiatives, urging their continued support of his policy choices.

"When the national recession hit, wiping out jobs and revenues all across our country, other states tried to cut their way to prosperity," O'Malley said. "But in Maryland, we made better choices."

Those "better choices" include instituting new performance standards to make government more efficient, constraining spending and investing in education and innovation, O'Malley said.

Having recently proposed some of the strictest gun control laws in the country that are similar to legislation in New York, O'Malley renewed his call for a ban on assault rifles and tighter background check requirements for firearm purchasers.

While violent crime in Maryland is down 25 percent since 2006, "we lose far too many American lives to gun violence," O'Malley said.

O'Malley wants to use the current legislative session to take on another controversial issue: repealing the death penalty.

"The death penalty is expensive and it does not work," O'Malley said, adding that "it cannot be administered without racial bias."

Maryland, which currently has five inmates on death row, has not executed a prisoner since 2005. In 2009, state lawmakers passed a bill restricting the use of the death penalty to cases where DNA evidence, a confession or video evidence of the crime is available.

If O'Malley can push his proposals through the General Assembly, Maryland will become the 18th state to completely abolish the death penalty.

Climate change and alternative energy, namely wind power, are also high on O'Malley's list of priorities for 2013. He has proposed multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies for the construction of a new wind power farm off the coast of Ocean City.

"Climate disruption is real," O'Malley said. "It is physics, pure and simple."

O'Malley, who went on to describe Maryland's traffic as the worst in the country, vowed to help bring the state's transportation network into the 21st century, and in applauding Maryland's students, educators and school support staff, he noted the state's fifth consecutive annual ranking by Education Week as the top public school system in the country.

"This jobs budget invests to improve public education and to build new schools," O'Malley said. "It accelerates the transition from chalk and textbooks in our classrooms, to iPads, laptops, smart-boards, and 21st century digital learning tools."

As O'Malley, a former Baltiomore mayor, enters the back half of his second term as governor, major speeches like the State of the State address take on added significance. O'Malley, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association and was prominently featured at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is widely believed to have national political aspirations.

His name has been mentioned along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as possible 2016 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I thought it was the best State of the State speech he's given," said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

He added that the address "well-crafted and well-delivered," saying he believes O'Malley will finish the legislative session with "some pretty significant" accomplishments. "Today wasn't just a State of the State speech, it was an 'I want your [presidential] nomination' speech," Eberly said.

Sen. E. J. Pipkin (R-Upper Shore) said that rather than focusing on the specific needs of Marylanders, policies O'Malley spelled out in his speech had more to do with Democrats' national agenda of taxes and gun control.

"He's coming for your money...he's coming for your guns," Pipkin said.

Following the speech, Republicans took the opportunity to point out the half-dozen foreign diplomats in attendance, citing their presence as proof of O'Malley's intent to attract a national audience.

(Source: Capital News Service)