Lawmakers around the region are gearing up for upcoming legislative sessions as the pageantry of swearing-in ceremonies wears off. Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about what to expect in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
What to watch for on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's agenda: "Gov. O'Malley will be pushing for subsidies to build wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City to generate clean electric power," McCartney says. "He tried that last year but came up short, he seems to have better prospects this year. He's also likely to win some new gun control measures following the elementary school mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., be it possibly new restrict on high powered rifles and/or large magazines.
"The other possibility, but it seems more iffy, is he might make one more big push to repeal the death penalty," McCartney says. "He tried that four years ago but lost; it's not clear if he'd have the votes this time."
On a possible gas tax increase in Maryland: "O'Malley tried last year to increase the gas tax and it went nowhere. They need more money for transportation … everyone agrees on that," McCartney says. "But one new twist on this is that Senate President Mike Miller suggested a split approach where the big suburban counties like Montgomery and Prince George's could somehow pay higher taxes to help pay for mass transit like the Purple Line light rail link, but the rural counties would be spared."
How transportation will factor in Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's final year as governor: "McDonnell has promised to give more details very soon on a big new transportation initiative. He wants to raise at least $500 million a year extra for transportation," McCartney says. "We haven't seen the details, but it's very likely to include gas tax index and shifting money from the general fund. Republicans are against indexing the gas tax because that's basically a tax increase and the Democrats are against shifting money from the general fund, so it's not clear where that will go."
Whether the new faces on the D.C. council will change the dynamic at the Wilson Building: "I think it is. I think you're really seeing some significant changes in the power structure and the perspective of the people running the D.C. Council, largely because Chairman Phil Mendelson has taken over..." McCartney says. "One of the biggest changes is that Mendelson appointed David Catania to be in charge of the education committee. Catania is a very outspoken and experienced Council member, and he has promised to push very aggressively on school reform. The teachers union is already nervous about it, so there could be some pretty big changes on one of the most important issues in the District.
"Another thing, he named Kenyan McDuffie from Ward 5 as the chairman pro tempore, which is the symbolic number two on the council," McCartney says. "There's not a lot of power there but it is interesting that someone who just entered the council last year is going to have this high ranking position."