- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2007

As former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the leading symbol of two-party government in Maryland for the past four years, resumes life in the private sector, Marylanders can begin to savor the benefits of one-party liberal rule they voted for in November. Although right now it is impossible to tell how far and how fast Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller will take the state to the left, the general trend is unmistakable.

Although the rush leftward will be slowed somewhat by fiscal realities and judicial intervention, it’s clear that during the next four years, the big political winners will include interest groups like Progressive Maryland and Casa of Maryland; bureaucracies that administer social programs and government regulators who stand to gain new powers to dictate wage rates and health-insurance coverage provided by the private sector; convicted felons; and illegal aliens.

If it’s a bad idea, chances are that it’s under consideration in Annapolis. Mr. O’Malley appeared before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week to testify in favor of repealing the 29-year-old state law authorizing the death penalty. He was joined by his father-in-law, former state Attorney General Joseph Curran, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey in calling for abolition of the death penalty. Then there’s the issue of making it easier for convicted felons to vote. Currently, a first-time offender may vote after serving all his time, including probation or parole. People convicted of multiple felonies must wait three years before they are eligible to vote. Lawmakers from Baltimore and Prince George’s County are lobbying to allow first-time offenders to vote after they are released from prison. Mr. O’Malley has yet to take a position on the matter, but advocates of liberalized voting rights for felons are confident that they have a better chance of winning gubernatorial support with Mr. O’Malley than they did with Mr. Ehrlich.

Corporate opposition to bills mandating draconian new pollution standards on automobiles sold in Maryland has collapsed, virtually ensuring that it will sail through the legislature and become law this year. Mr. O’Malley is also pushing for passage of legislation mandating that firms doing business with the state pay a so-called living wage of $11.95 an hour. Such a law will likely result in job losses for entry-level workers (but, happily for state Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman and his apparatchiks, those can always be blamed on President Bush).

The governor is considering calling a special session later this year to address Maryland’s budget deficit, and administration officials say nothing is off the table — including tax increases. In-state tuition for illegals, vetoed by Mr. Ehrlich four years ago, may be enacted into law in the coming weeks. And the state’s huge problems with fraudulently obtained driver’s licenses have not been addressed — making it increasingly likely that when the federal Real ID law takes effect next year, Marylanders will be unable to use their licenses to board airplanes or enter federal buildings.

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