Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday signed into law a long-sought environmental initiative – a subsidy he hopes will lead to one of the nation’s first offshore wind farms.
The law allows Marylanders to be charged about $1.50 a month on their electricity bills to offset the higher cost of producing about 200 megawatts of wind energy. Ratepayers will only be charged if and when the windmills are constructed off the coast of Ocean City.
The moment was applauded by hundreds of environmentalists and was the most well-known of 152 bills that O’Malley signed into law Tuesday. At a State House news conference and signing ceremony, he and the legislature’s two top Democrats basked in the success of passing O’Malley’s entire agenda and much more in the 90-day session that ended late Monday.
The governor won high-profile victories on gun-control; a repeal of the death penalty and higher gas taxes for transportation projects. The Democrat-controlled legislature also approved his plan to expand early voting and to allow for same-day registration, and to expand training and employment opportunities for veterans.
“As our people expect us to, we continued to make better choices because we know our job is to achieve better results for the people we serve,” O’Malley said.
He also signed into law a measure making it state policy to seek out private investors to build roads, bridges, schools, libraries, state office buildings and other big-ticket items, joining a wave of left-leaning states embracing so-called public-private partnerships, or P3s.
The arrangements—once anathema to blue states and their often-powerful public employee unions – have gained in popularity in Democrat-led states amid prolonged budget shortfalls.
Controversially, the legislation would exclude some of Maryland’s biggest contracts from its decades old procurement process, which was written after a series of favoritism scandals dating to the 1960s. The law would allow private companies to use tolls, rent and other fees over a period of up to 50 years to recoup costs and turn a profit on public infrastructure. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) lobbied legislators to approve the measure and predicted Tuesday it would prove effective at creating jobs in the state.
The festive atmosphere couldn’t have been more different than a year earlier when the customary bill-signing ceremony followed a final-night breakdown in which the state’s budget failed to pass for the first time in two decades. Lawmakers ended up returning to Annapolis twice over the summer to finish the budget and to reach agreement on a plan to allow a casino in Prince George’s County.
“I thank everyone for coming together and probably making this the most successful legislative session of my lifetime,” said Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who has served in Annapolis for three decades, and led the Senate longer than anyone else.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) echoed that sentiment and said the big-ticket successes overshadowed bills that would have made headlines in any other year, including a plan for $1 billion in school construction in Baltimore, and the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.