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First Click -- Maryland

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010:

The Agenda:

The State of the State: What wasn't said

O'Malley SoS.jpgNo one should have been surprised that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) devoted the bulk of Tuesday's 27-minute "State of the State" address to job creation.

Aides had telegraphed the move, and O'Malley (and many other incumbent governors) have clearly calculated that focusing on the issue is the best way to show empathy toward voters in a difficult election year.

"Progress requires that we focus the energies of this session on three primary actions: creating jobs, saving jobs and protecting jobs," O'Malley told a joint session of the General Assembly, as we reported in the pages of The Post.

Less obvious was O'Malley's omission of several issues that have divided people -- including the governor's fellow Democrats -- in the past.

Slots -- an issue that dominated Maryland politics for much of the previous decade -- did not merit a single word.

In the past, O'Malley has taken credit for forging a difficult compromise on the issue -- namely, letting voters decide whether to invite expanded gambling into Maryland. Since the 2008 passage of a ballot referendum authorizing five slots sites, the program has no doubt had its share of setbacks.

But a couple of the locations could open later this year. And whatever else one thinks of slots, there is no question that the new casinos will create jobs -- and arguably more jobs than several of the other existing initiatives that O'Malley cast Tuesday as job-creators.

Moreover, a commission has recommended that state leaders consider allowing table games, and debate over that issue is already starting to percolate in the legislature. O'Malley could have squelched that talk -- or furthered it along -- with a single line in his address.

O'Malley was also silent on another issue that generated headlines in his previous three addresses: the death penalty. The legislature never heeded the governor's call to abolish capital punishment, a stand unpopular with some swing voters.

The legislature compromised last year on this issue, too, passing a bill that restricts death penalty cases to those with higher standards of evidence. O'Malley has praised the new law as a step forward, though it was not mentioned Tuesday among a list of accomplishments of the past three years. The closest the governor came was this oblique line: "God loves even the partial victories."

The issue of the death penalty will still be relevant this session. Some lawmakers are attempting to loosen the standards of evidence approved last year, and a panel of legislators is reviewing rules drafted by O'Malley's administration that would end an effective moratorium on capital punishment that began with a December 2006 court ruling.

Perhaps more surprising was how little O'Malley said about getting tougher on sex offenders, an issue that has generated several proposals from his office since the death in December of an 11-year-old girl on the Eastern Shore. Only one line of his speech was devoted to the topic. And the speech was largely silent on social issues, including gay marriage, which could become a major flash point this session.

Asked about some of these omissions, O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec offered this: "Those are all very important things to talk about, and there are dozens more we could come up with. Governor O'Malley focused his remarks on job creation because it is the foundation to this economic recovery, bringing our state from recession to recovery to prosperity."

-- John Wagner


News You Should Know

Maryland court rules for NAACP in 'driving while black' case

"The state's second-highest court handed the NAACP a victory Tuesday in the long-running 'driving while black' issue, ordering the Maryland State Police to turn over records showing how the department dealt with complaints of racial profiling by its troopers," reports The Baltimore Sun's Andrea Siegel. "None of the 100 complaints of racial profiling over five years had been upheld in state police internal investigations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which also is involved in the case."

Republicans unlikely to play along in budget spectacle
Thumbnail image for Kittleman.jpgSenate Republican leader Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard) said on Tuesday that the Democrats' ultimatum to present a counter offer to Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget proposal at a hearing scheduled for later this month appears disingenuous and that the minority party lacks the resources to match the administration's 2,769-proposal. "I said give me your budget staff for a month, and I'll get you a proposal," Kittleman said. He and other state Republicans have blasted O'Malley's budget for relying on over $1 billion in budget maneuvers to close a projected shortfall, but Democrats are betting Republicans will never put in print the cuts to education or other state services that would be needed to close the gap without them -- or, if they do, that the list of cuts will amount to great campaign fodder come November. Kittleman equated the Democrats' budget problem to the party being "down by 10 in the bottom of the ninth" and calling on Republicans to come in and "save the day." He said a month was not an adequate amount of time to ready such a widespread budget overhaul and that he suspects that Democrats would not seriously consider any proposal Republicans deliver. -- Aaron C. Davis

Prosecutors scold 'unrepentant' Baltimore mayor

Dixon photo.jpg"Prosecutors say Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D) is 'unrepentant' and 'has lost touch with reality' in the wake of her convictions on perjury and embezzlement charges," writes The AP's Ben Nuckols. "Dixon will be sentenced on Thursday. Under a plea deal, she will receive probation before judgment, meaning the convictions can ultimately be wiped off her record. State Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh isn't asking Judge Dennis Sweeney to give Dixon a stiffer sentence. But he took her to task in court papers filed Tuesday for what he called her "defiant arrogance." Dixon told The Associated Press a day after her guilty plea that developer Ronald Lipscomb didn't give her nearly as many gifts as prosecutors alleged, and that prosecutors scared him into lying. She pleaded guilty to perjury for failing to report the gifts."

Biden, others remember Maryland's liberal Republican
Thumbnail image for mathias.jpg"Vice President Joe Biden led hundreds of mourners Tuesday in remembering Charles McC. Mathias Jr., the former Republican lawmaker from Maryland who died last week at 87," writes The Sun's Paul West. "Senators, congressmen, diplomats and power brokers, present and past, joined family and former aides in honoring a man whose passing drew attention to a vanished breed: the liberal Republican. Biden, a Democrat, described Mathias as "a great man" and mentor who taught him about "moral and political courage." In a capital less polarized than today, Mathias was known for independence and a willingness to cross party lines during a congressional career that spanned three decades.

Say What??

Near the end of Gov. Martin O'Malley's "State of the State" address on Tuesday, he veered away from the state's economic woes and into soaring rhetoric about Maryland and its future. Some lines were later repeated and debated in the State House, others left lawmakers scratching their heads. All appear open for interpretation:

stateofstate.jpg* "The rivers, forests, shores, and waters of this extraordinary state are ever our allies." (Better than having them as your enemies, quipped one Democratic staffer).

* "We have a hundred years of creative work ahead of us." (100 years??? 90 days might be a stretch)

AND ...

* "To the cynical who say government is not the answer, I ask, what then is the question?"

The straw "question" O'Malley then offered also raised, well, more questions: "If the question is how to create jobs, how to get our economy going, how to re-imagine what it means to be a Marylander in these challenging times, and how to create greater freedom, opportunity and justice for all ... then a working and effective government is an indispensable and essential part of the answer. But only part; for government cannot be a substitute for citizenship. It can never replace the power of the individual, the power of individual creativity, the power of individual choices responsibly and courageously made."

----

Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  February 3, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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Comments

JFK he ain't.

Posted by: member8 | February 3, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

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