ANNAPOLIS — State lawmakers launched into the final legislative session of their elected terms Wednesday with a look back at an action-packed three years.
On the session’s opening day, some officials celebrated the recent success of controversial proposals that range from death penalty repeal to legalization of same-sex marriage and raising the gas tax. And though lawmakers have put the bulk of the current term behind them, the coming session promises another round of strong debate over issues such as whether to raise the state’s minimum wage.
“There will be no coasting this legislative session. We have work to do,” Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown told members of the House of Delegates.
Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat who is joining the push to raise the minimum wage, said he is pleased with the Maryland General Assembly’s accomplishments during his time in office.
His viewpoint is shared by few lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, said he thinks recent years are notable for “crushing people of middle income and lower income” with tax increases.
For a couple of local lawmakers, this session could represent a last chance to make a mark on Annapolis; delegates Patrick Hogan and Galen Clagett have said they do not intend to run for re-election later this year.
In his last session, Hogan plans on offering a bill to create a task force to plan for the future of I-270. He is also crafting a proposal to change the legislative and congressional redistricting process. Hogan said his goal is to make redistricting more transparent and nonpartisan.
“I at least want to start the conversation before I leave,” said Hogan, R-District 3A.
Clagett, who plans to bow out after completing his third term as delegate, said in coming weeks he’ll submit bills related to transportation funding and reducing corporate income tax rates.
“It’s been a nice 12-year run, but it’s time to go,” Clagett, D-District 3A, said of his time in office.
Clagett, who was in the hospital Wednesday, missed the first day of session. He said he expected he’d also be absent today but would be back in Annapolis on Friday.
Sen. David Brinkley is taking on new roles this session as the leader of his chamber’s Republican caucus and by moving off the Budget and Taxation Committee. Brinkley’s new position on the Senate Finance Committee will likely put him near the center of debates on increasing the state’s minimum wage, which is now $7.25 an hour.
Brinkley, R-District 4, said he opposes changing the minimum wage at the state level.
“That puts Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore at a competitive disadvantage,” he said, adding that the federal government should handle any increases.
Young, D-District 3, said he is getting behind a wage hike.
“I would challenge anybody to try to live on $7.25 an hour,” he said. “That’s less than $1,300 a month, and after deductions, you can barely pay rent.”
This session is also the last in which Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, will represent Frederick County, which will no longer fall within his district even if he is re-elected.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.