MADD appears no more interested in cutting a deal this year.
"Not all compromise is progress," said Caroline Cash, executive director of MADD Maryland.
Cash said advocates could seek to use the issue of interlock devices to address what they see as a weakness in drunken-driving laws: the ability of suspects to refuse to be tested. She said advocates might propose to make ignition interlock installation mandatory for those who refuse tests.
Lawmakers could also tighten rules restricting the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while behind the wheel. Del. James E. Malone Jr., the Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee on highway safety, said legislators will seek to close a loophole in the state's texting-while-driving ban that allows motorists to read messages.
He said the committee might also consider whether the cell phone ban adopted last year as a secondary offense — which is insufficient in itself to trigger a traffic stop — should be made a primary offense.
But Robert McKinney, president of the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation, which pushed for the cell phone measure, said the organization is leaning toward waiting another year to give Marylanders time to get used to the law.
Look for sparks over offshore wind energy and Marcellus shale gas drilling. Environmentalists hope to boost prospects for wind turbines off Maryland's coast by requiring utilities to agree to buy electricity from them. State law requires utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2022, and the O'Malley administration has made developing offshore wind a priority.
But securing financing for such costly projects is a major hurdle, so advocates want the General Assembly to require utilities to guarantee offshore wind power a market by signing 25-year contracts to buy 3 percent of their electricity from the turbines. Labor leaders are expected to join environmentalists in this push, pointing to state estimates that a one-gigawatt project could support up to 4,000 manufacturing and construction jobs while being built, with 800 permanent jobs needed to run the facility.
Hundreds of property owners in Allegany and Garrett counties have signed leases to allow drilling for natural gas in shale deposits on their land for a share of whatever fuel is found. The state Department of the Environment has been considering a request to drill for shale gas in Garrett County for more than a year, and more requests are likely if state regulators give it a green light.
Del. Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat, has vowed to seek a legislative moratorium on drilling until state regulations are strengthened to prevent exploration for gas from polluting streams and contaminating residents' wells, as has been alleged in other states. Western Maryland legislators have signaled that they'll oppose such a move.
Efforts to accelerate cleanup of the bay are likely to be handicapped this year by the state budget crisis, but some lawmakers hope to reduce pollution by limiting homeowners' use of fertilizer.
Lawn services are regulated to reduce runoff, and the nutrient content of fertilizer sold in home-and-garden stores has been slashed through voluntary agreement with the industry. But proponents say there is room for further reductions by spelling out when and how fertilizer can be applied by individuals — barring application when it's raining or during late fall, for instance.
Environmentalists, who could receive support from unlikely allies in the building industry, also plan to renew efforts to make Maryland's communities deal with their runoff. Advocates intend to revive a bill that died last year that would require all Maryland counties and municipalities to raise funds for retrofitting storm drains, installing rain gardens and other measures to capture and filter rainwater that flushes pollution into streams and, ultimately, the bay.
All of the state's localities have the authority to levy storm-water pollution fees, but only a few do. The costs of retrofitting storm drains and reducing runoff in communities statewide is estimated at $10 billion to $20 billion. The O'Malley administration did not support the bill last year, and it died in the Senate amid opposition from local officials. The administration has indicated it would support mandating storm-water fees in a year or two if localities fail to act to fund pollution-control measures.
Scaling back the state's ballooning pension costs is among O'Malley's priorities. He hasn't said how he will do it, but he has taken some options off the table.
He opposes the idea of creating a 401(k)-style retirement arrangement. "Rather than privatize the system, I think we have to make a sustainable defined benefit for the long term," O'Malley said.