Gov. Martin O'Malley released his 2010 legislative agenda Monday, saying he will focus on creating jobs, promoting renewable energy, strengthening education and improving public safety.
But the first measure that the Maryland General Assembly will consider is the Democratic governor's emergency bill to change the state's unemployment insurance system. The insurance fund, which is rapidly being depleted because so many residents are out of work, stands to gain more than $80 million in federal cash if the state increases the period of time that can be considered when someone applies for unemployment benefits.
Both the House of Delegates and Senate will hold hearings this week. Business representatives have said they likely will oppose the change because it saddles employers with additional long-term costs.
The governor's agenda does not specifically address teacher tenure and incentive pay, changes that state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick believes are necessary if Maryland wants to compete for up to $250 million in federal Race to the Top money. However, those bills appear to be on the way in the next week or so.
O'Malley and his aides had disclosed most of the governor's largely cost-neutral agenda in the past few weeks, including efforts to require mediation in foreclosures and again pursue a Medicaid false-claims bill that failed last year.
On the public safety front, O'Malley is seeking lifetime supervision for violent and repeat sex offenders, an issue that many lawmakers are interested in after the December killing of an 11-year-old on the Eastern Shore. A registered sex offender has been charged with Sarah Foxwell's abduction.
O'Malley had said weeks ago that he wasn't likely to seek utility re-regulation in 2010, after his bill was defeated last year. Instead, he has proposed accelerating the state's solar energy use, giving the Public Service Commission authority over offshore wind facilities and reauthorizing the renewable energy production tax credit.
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