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O'Malley lays out liberal agenda in State of State address

Governor asks lawmakers to make 'better choices' than other states

January 30, 2013|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Making a second attempt to win repeal after an earlier effort fell short in 2009, O’Malley told lawmakers that the death penalty is ineffective and expensive.

“It is not a deterrent. It cannot be administered without racial bias. It costs three times as much as locking someone up for life without parole. And it cannot be reversed if an innocent person is executed,” he said. “It is time to repeal the death penalty in Maryland and replace it with life without parole.”

O’Donnell took particular exception to O’Malley’s argument for death penalty repeal, in which the governor listed the countries other than the United States that carry out most of the world’s executions, including China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iraq and Iran, with the implication that Maryland shouldn’t be in that company. O’Donnell said it was offensive to say that with foreign diplomats present.

“You can advocate for your policy changes without running the United States of America into the ground,” O’Donnell said.

O’Malley also issued a call for the licensing of handgun owners and a ban on assault-type weapons, measures he added to his agenda after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

“Who can watch the sad images of the last several weeks, who can see the pictures of those young faces, and honestly say we’re doing enough?” he asked.

The governor’s speech, especially the passages dealing with guns and the death penalty, received a mixed response. Near the front and middle of the House chamber, where the all-Democratic delegations from Baltimore and Montgomery County sit, he drew repeated standing ovations. But at the back, where the mostly Republican contingent from Western Maryland and Harford County sits, most lawmakers remained silent in their seats.

The address was noteworthy for one issue O’Malley did not mention: Baltimore’s effort to win approval for a $2.4 billion plan to rebuild dilapidated schools. O’Malley has yet to take a position on the plan promoted by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was in the audience, and city schools chief executive Andrés Alonso.

More than in past years, what O’Malley said in Annapolis could have political repercussions outside the state. The governor, who cannot run for re-election in 2014 because of term limits, is among a handful of Democrats — along with outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — who is regularly listed by pundits as a likely candidate for president in 2016.

Two observers from opposite ends of the political spectrum — Cummings and Republican state Sen. Richard F. Colburn of the Eastern Shore — had the same view of what would happen if Clinton were to run. Both thought O’Malley would pass on the race but would be on the short list for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

“He’s not running for president,” Colburn said. “He’s running for vice president.”

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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