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Minority group to push for wind energy talks during special session

Lawmakers should reconsider Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal for offshore wind development during the anticipated special session in May, black leaders from across the state said Tuesday.

O’Malley (D) announced Tuesday morning that he expected lawmakers to reach a consensus on the budget before May 23 and that a second special session to consider expanding gambling could be called for late summer, prompting the group’s call for action on wind energy.

“We just ask that a session for offshore wind be held as well,” said Christine Hill, policy representative for the Sierra Club Maryland chapter.

The bill, as it passed the House, would have created roughly $100 million in work for minority businesses, by requiring any developers to set minority business participation goals, the group said.

The wind energy bill failed to garner enough support to be voted out of the Senate Finance Committee. Hill said she didn’t know if any committee members had reconsidered to support the bill since the end of session, but the group would increase lobbying efforts.

The bill would add an average $1.50 per month fee to residential ratepayers’ bills and an average 1.5 percent to commercial users’ electric bills to jump-start offshore wind development off the coast of Ocean City, according to a state budget analysis.

The group said the state also should approve the revenue plan that failed to pass during the regular session that ended April 9, sparking more than $500 million in cuts to O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget, which takes effect July 1.

Cuts included in the “doomsday budget” would hurt schools in Baltimore city and Prince George’s County and affect historically black colleges and universities in the state, said Lance Lucas, president of the Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce.