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Local legislators reflect on 2013 General Assembly

Personal Weapon ControlGun ControlInterior PolicyElectionsBudgets and BudgetingMaryland General Assembly

The 2013 Maryland General Assembly that came to a close April 8 was, according to two veteran area delegates, the toughest session ever.

During the 90-day session, Gov. Martin O'Malley got just about everything on his wish list, including tougher gun laws, a death penalty repeal, an increased tax on gasoline, the legalization of medical marijuana and the subsidization of offshore wind.

But the votes on some of those issues were difficult. Below, area legislators reflect on the successes and disappointments from their time in Annapolis.

Sen. Edward Kasemeyer

Highlight: Maryland no longer has a deficit.

"The thing that goes unnoticed by the average person, but frankly without it government really struggles in providing services, is the whole issue of deficits and budgets," Kasemeyer said.

"We got out of being in a deficit, which means every year you're not faced with 'What don't we increase? What don't we cut?' " Kasemeyer said.

Low light: Having to vote for the new gas tax.

He said the tax is critical for increasing revenue necessary for major transportation improvement projects, but that he wasn't 100 percent satisfied with the terms of the bill.

"It was an inevitable thing and the question was how to get it done," Kasemeyer said.

Easiest vote: "The death penalty issue," Kasemeyer said.

"You're raised a certain way, you have fundamental beliefs," he said. "I've always supported capital punishment so I didn't struggle with that decision to stay there."

Hardest vote:: "To have to vote on the gas tax in the way it was constructed," Kasemeyer said. "It was like medicine you don't want to take, but you know you have to do it."

Sen. Delores Kelley

Highlight: That gun control law and death penalty repeal both passed.

"I think we were really balanced in what we did," Kelley said.

"I was also happy to be able to keep us from just saying the whole problem was about mental illness," she said. "Although it was mentally ill people who killed a lot of people at once ... most of the gun murders have nothing to do with mental illness, it's people who are mean or revengeful in some way."

Low light: The bill to delay storm water runoff fees did not pass in the House of Delegates.

"That bill would have delayed for two years a local tax assessment for storm water management to clean up the Bay," Kelley said.

"That was really sad because we passed so many taxes between last session and this session," she said. "We're just really hitting people too hard too fast."

Easiest vote: The death penalty repeal and Firearms Safety Act, which limits gun magazine sizes and requires background checks before gun purchases, were the easiest pieces of legislation to vote for.

"I was thoroughly convinced, of the hot button issues, that I needed to do the death penalty and we needed to abolish that and we needed to have greater gun safety," Kelley said.

Hardest bill vote: Storm water runoff fee.

"Everybody's got to pay and the money just isn't there right now," Kelley said. "So to not do what the environmentalists really wanted and what is needed in the long run in order to deal with the human need ... that was hard to deal with."

Del. Adrienne Jones

Highlight: Seeing a number of controversial pieces of legislation pass.

"The key one, obviousl,y was the firearm legislation, the transportation, the death penalty," Jones said. "There was something in this budget, whether you were a rural person, an environmentalist, supporting education. There was something for everyone in this budget and I think that was the highlight."

Low light: Mediating during the gun control bill.

"Because some of the individuals, they made an assumption that, by passing this, that we're taking away their rights," Jones said. "It got heated on the floor with some of the members. That's the unfortunate part of it." .

Easiest vote: After serving on the committee that created it and listening to family members of murder victims testify for it, the death penalty repeal.

"They wanted the repeal, and I think that was enlightening to me to hear about that," Jones said.

Hardest vote:: "Probably be the transportation," Jones said. "People would not understand (why it passed) because there's a tax increase."

Del. James Malone

Highlight: Passage of his cellphone bill, which, he said, has been in the works for seven years.

Low light: "I am very disappointed because I spent four months working to put the confidence back into the speed camera system," Malone said.

"And the bill that we put together was everybody sitting down, 40-50 people at every work session, to craft a piece of legislation that everybody agreed to," he said.

"All of that that we did and to have it on it the last day to be defeated by someone who doesn't have speed cameras in any of the counties that he represents," Malone said.

Easiest vote: "The vote against the gas tax," Malone said.

"What you have to realize is that I have the poorest elementary and middle school in Baltimore County. My biggest concern with the gas tax is the fact that you really can't control the gas tax," he said. "Do we need money for infrastructure? Absolutely. Did I think the gas tax was the way to go? Absolutely not." .

Hardest vote: Malone said that he had trouble with the gas tax, gun legislation and the death penalty repeal.

"Every single vote I make in the legislature, somebody's going to be upset with you," he said.

Del. Steven DeBoy

DeBoy announced Monday that he would not seek reelection in 2014. DeBoy was elected into the House of Delegates in 2002 and has been a member of the Appropriations Committee throughout the duration of his service.

However, he said that he will not attempt to maintain his position when the 2014 primary elections roll around.

"I've been mulling it over for a while," DeBoy said.

"I started looking at it and said, 'Do I want to run for reelection or do I feel like I've accomplished the things I've liked to,'" he said.

"Right now I've achieved what I'd like to the in House of Delegates," DeBoy said.

He said his political career is not over yet though.

"I'm just keeping my eyes and ears open to whatever might open up later on," DeBoy said.

"I'm not done in political office by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

Highlight: "I would think the highlights were, obviously, when we do the state budget and we continue to put our money where our mouth is and put money into the public school system."

Low light: Deciding on social issues such as gun control and the death penalty repeal.

"It was the hardest session I've had, and this was my 11th year," DeBoy said.

"These social issues get very difficult. You have somebody ticked off at you all the time," he said.

Easiest vote: "Probably the gas tax, because I thought that was just not the right funding mechanism for the projects," DeBoy said.

"I certainly understood the need for revenue, there's no question there," he said. "I didn't believe that the gas tax was the appropriate funding mechanism for it."

Hardest vote: "The gun bill was hard only because there were things in the gun bill that I thought ... if we could have pulled out some of those components of the gun bill, like mental health provisions and the expanded background provisions, and they had been separate bills, I would have absolutely supported it," DeBoy said. "But because it was all wrapped up into one bill, that made it hard."

s all wrapped up into one bill, that made it hard."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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