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The End of the Session

College students across Maryland can expect to save a few hundred dollars on this fall's tuition bills. By next year, bartenders in all regions of the state should be serving drinks in smoke-free establishments. And many low-wage employees doing contract work for the state should soon see a bump in their paychecks.

In ways big and small, the 90-day session of the General Assembly that drew to a close Monday at midnight will affect the lives of everyday Marylanders.

The session marked the return of one-party rule in Annapolis, as Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, took over the governor's mansion from Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state's first Republican governor in a generation, whom he defeated last fall.

O'Malley campaigned on "kitchen-table" issues affecting working-class Marylanders, and much of the agenda he pushed through the heavily Democratic legislature during his first session was intended to benefit them.

That included a freeze next year on in-state tuition at public universities and the nation's first statewide "living wage" law, which will require state contractors to pay their employees significantly better than the minimum wage.

O'Malley also pushed for a record $400 million in school construction funding, a move that could result in fewer students across the state attending classes in what the new governor dubbed "temporary learning shacks" -- a reference to the growing number of trailers popping up on schoolyards in the Washington suburbs and elsewhere in the state.

The biggest disappointments of the session came in the area of health care.

Leaders of the House of Delegates fell short in their drive to double the state's tax on cigarettes to $2 a pack to help fund the state's largest expansion of subsidized health insurance in years.

And on the final night of the session, a deal between state and county officials collapsed to save the financially troubled Prince George's County hospital sysytem, a failure that could result in the relocation of hundreds of patients through the Washington region.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  April 10, 2007; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Governor  
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