Video by Jenny Kay Paulson & Leah Villanueva
ANNAPOLIS – In his seventh State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley urged lawmakers to continue pushing forward on gun control, job creation and death penalty repeal, issues that some say O’Malley is using to position himself for a run at national office.
O’Malley dedicated roughly equal time in his approximately 30-minute address to congratulating lawmakers for past results on education and job creation, and urging them to support his policy choices moving forward.
The theme of O’Malley’s second-to-last State of the State was “better choices, better results.”
“When the national recession hit, wiping out jobs and revenues all across our country, other states tried to cut their way to prosperity,” O’Malley said. “But in Maryland, we made better choices.”
Those “better choices” include instituting new performance metrics designed to make government more efficient, constraining spending and investing in education and innovation, O’Malley said.
O’Malley, who recently proposed some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, renewed his call for a ban on assault rifles and tighter background check requirements for firearm purchasers.
While violent crime in Maryland is down 25 percent since 2006, “we lose far too many American lives to gun violence,” O’Malley said.
“I thought it was the best State of the State speech he’s given,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, calling the address “well-crafted and well-delivered.”
While Eberly believes that O’Malley will finish the legislative session with “some pretty significant accomplishments,” he doesn’t expect Maryland lawmakers to agree to gun control bills as strict as those recently passed in New York. O’Malley’s proposals are similar to the bills passed in New York.
Following the speech, Republicans took the opportunity to point out the half-dozen foreign diplomats in attendance, citing this as evidence of O’Malley’s desire to attract a national audience.
Rather than focusing on the specific needs of Marylanders, the policies O’Malley spelled out in his speech had more to do with Democrats’ national agenda of taxes and gun control, said Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Upper Shore.
“He’s coming for your money…he’s coming for your guns,” Pipkin said.
O’Malley wants to use the current legislative session to take on another controversial issue: repealing the death penalty.
“The death penalty is expensive and it does not work,” O’Malley said, adding that “it cannot be administered without racial bias.”
Maryland, which currently has five inmates on death row, has not executed a prisoner since 2005. In 2009, state lawmakers passed a bill restricting the use of the death penalty to cases where DNA evidence, a confession, or video evidence of the crime is available.
If O’Malley can push his proposals through the General Assembly, Maryland will become the 18th state to completely abolish the death penalty.
Video by Jessica Wilde
Climate change and alternative energy, namely wind power, are also high on O’Malley’s list of priorities for 2013. He has proposed multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies for the construction of a new wind power farm off the coast of Ocean City.
“Climate disruption is real,” O’Malley said. “It is physics, pure and simple.”
O’Malley also called Maryland’s traffic the worst in the country and v
owed to help bring the state’s transportation network into the 21st century.
He applauded Maryland’s students, educators and school support staff, calling attention to the state’s fifth consecutive annual ranking by Education Week as the top public school system in the country.
“This jobs budget invests to improve public education and to build new schools,” O’Malley said. “It accelerates the transition from chalk and textbooks in our classrooms, to iPads, laptops, smart-boards, and 21st century digital learning tools.”
As O’Malley, 50, enters the back half of his second term as governor, major speeches like the State of the State address take on added significance. O’Malley, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association and was prominently featured at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is widely believed to have national political aspirations.
His name has been mentioned along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as possible 2016 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Today wasn’t just a State of the State speech, it was an ‘I want your (presidential) nomination’ speech,” Eberly said.