- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ANNAPOLIS | Gov. Martin O'Malley on Monday criticized General Assembly lawmakers, saying he thought they “choked” on several of his highest-priority legislative initiatives.

Democrats and Republicans were especially skeptical of the Democratic governor’s signature offshore wind bill, which would have required power companies to enter into a 25-year energy purchasing contract with an alternative-energy company and would have increased utility bills for Maryland residents.

The Democratic Party-controlled Assembly ultimately approved a scaled-down version of the governor’s Invest Maryland venture-capital program, which will sell $100 million in tax credits to investors rather than Mr. O'Malley’s originally proposed $142 million.

“We bailed him out big-time,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, adding that the Assembly passed “everything the governor put forward that was capable of passing.”

Mr. O'Malley’s heavily environmental and energy-related agenda carried little sway with Democratic legislators, who won out on several of their own marquee proposals in the session’s final days.

The Assembly on Monday passed a 3-percentage-point increase in the state alcohol sales tax and a bill allowing in-state college tuition for many illegal immigrants.

Both proposals received heavy opposition from Republicans in the final days of the 90-day session that ended Monday.

GOP members attempted to draw out discussion on both issues, arguing the tax increase would cripple many small liquor stores and restaurants. They also said both proposals would burden taxpayers.

The alcohol-tax increase will push the rate from 6 to 9 percent starting July 1, and is expected to generate $85 million in extra revenue in its first year. About $60 million will go toward school funding and $15 million to assisting the developmentally disabled.

Legislators also approved a bill allowing people arrested for marijuana use or possession to use medical necessity as a legal defense.

The bill, which would allow acquittal for a person who provides medical documentation of an ailment for which marijuana can provide relief, had heavy bipartisan support from legislators. The bill also establishes a task force to study the prospect of legalizing medical marijuana.