ANNAPOLIS - The 2012 General Assembly session closed without an agreement between the House of Delegates and the Senate on an operating budget for the state. Many other bills passed or failed during the 90-day session.
Budget and Casino Gambling
The General Assembly failed to pass a revenue-raising operating budget during the regular session that ended Monday night, making it likely that a special session will be called for the first time since 1992. A special session would probably include negotiations on a proposed gambling bill to allow the construction of a casino inPrince George's County, which became a sticking point in the back-and-forth between the House and Senate late Monday night.
The General Assembly passed a major piece of Gov.Martin O'Malley's agenda when a controversial bill legalizing same-sex marriage cleared both chambers in February.
The bill generated heated debate, especially in the House of Delegates, where it passed with just a single vote to spare. It divided lawmakers early in the session along racial, religious and philosophical lines.
O'Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act into law, but it will likely have to be approved in a statewide referendum in November.
Education - Maintenance of Effort
Lawmakers closed loopholes and tweaked what many considered to be a broken maintenance of effort law, which is designed to keep education funding levels stable from year to year. But without an operating budget being approved, counties may have to make significant cuts in education spending.
Education - Teacher Pensions
Lawmakers did not approve a bill to transfer the normal cost of teacher pensions from the state to individual counties over the next four years. But pensions are on the short list of items to be considered in a special session.
Students will now be required to stay in school until age 17 in most cases, an increase of one year.
Attempts to combat childhood obesity in schools were not successful. The Student Health and Fitness Act, which would have required 150 minutes of physical activity time weekly, and another bill requiring calorie counts on school menus, both died in the House.
Likewise, the Kristen Marie Mitchell Bill, addressing dating violence as a bullying issue, died in committee.
The Kathleen A. Mathias Chemotherapy Parity Act of 2012 passed unanimously in both chambers, prohibiting insurers from imposing limits or cost sharing on coverage of orally administered chemotherapy that would make it less favorable than other forms of chemotherapy treatment.
Marylanders in low-income areas could see an increase in affordable health care coverage. The new program championed by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will create a pilot program for the Health Enterprise Zone program, which is designed to bring affordable health care to specially designated communities through a combination of state incentives and reduced taxes for health care providers.
Arsenic in Poultry Feed
Maryland became the first state to ban commercial poultry feed containing roxarsone, an arsenic-based drug used to treat a digestive parasite in chickens and turkeys. Supporters said the bill was a victory for public health, while Eastern Shore legislators called the ban a hardship for the state's struggling poultry industry.
Energy and Environment - Wind Turbines
A bill that could have made Maryland the first state to install wind turbines off its coast died in the Senate Finance committee. The legislation would have increased power bills for families in the state by a maximum of $1.50 a month, or 1.5 percent of the bill for commercial and industrial users.
Wind legislation was a priority for O'Malley, who argued the industry would create thousands of local jobs and garner $8.7 million in revenue for the state over a five-year span.
But many lawmakers were hesitant to increase energy bills in a struggling economy. Opponents of the legislation also cited the heavy cost of breaking into the offshore wind industry.
Energy and Environment - Fracking
Legislators passed a bill that would protect property owners leasing their land for hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. If water on a leased property is contaminated within 2,500 feet of a fracking well, drillers will be required to pay for the clean-up or will have to provide an alternative supply.
Water contamination has been a concern in nearby states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, where fracking is already taking place, although whether water pollution there is due to fracking is contested.
But legislation that would have collected funds for fracking-impact research never made it out of the Senate. The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Study Fee bill proposed a $15-per-acre fee on anyone intending to drill in the Marcellus Shale region in Western Maryland, which contains rich pockets of natural gas. Money from the fee would have paid for research on legal and environmental concerns related to fracking in the state.