Gov. Martin O'Malley released his goals for the final legislative session of his tenure on Monday, focusing his efforts on raising the state's minimum wage, expanding pre-kindergarten programs and launching a new plan to protect some state owned land.
The governor's formal announcement of his legislative agenda also includes laws to help domestic violence victims and improve security at jails in the wake of a corruption scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
While the governor had previously signalled support for all those proposals, Monday marked his official announcement of what he hopes to accomplish during the last General Assembly session of his eight years in office.
O'Malley said that he wants to increase the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016, the first increase since 2009. Under his proposal, future increases would be tied to inflation starting in 2017 and workers who earn tips would see a higher wage.
Lawmakers see broad support for a higher wage, but they have yet to coalesce around a specific plan.
“We’re going to forge consensus and increase the minimum wage -- when workers earn more money, businesses will have more customers, and we’ll grow Maryland’s economy from the middle out," O’Malley said in a statement.
Last week, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller publicly urged his colleagues to seek compromise and warned it was unlikely for senators to agree on a single wage increase for the state.
Another bill proposed by O'Malley Monday would set in motion a campaign proposal of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running to suceed O'Malley.
The bill would create a pool of grant money that would allow private and public pre-kindergarten programs to apply for cash to expand half-day or full-day schooling for approximately 1,600 4-year-olds from lower-income families.
A trio of proposals address domestic violence issues. One lowers the bar to get a restraining order in a domestic violence case. A second expands the list of crimes for which victims of domestic violence can get a permanent order. A third increasese the penalties for committing a violent crime.
Another proposal would designate more than 20,000 acres of state-owned land as protected wildlands. It would allow only hiking and horseback riding, prohibiting development, trail building and motorized vehicles.
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