"I don't think there's going to be a lot of appetite for issues that will raise the ire of the public," he said.

Aides said the governor hadn't made final decisions about his legislative agenda, but O'Malley has suggested that he has a few more items on his to-do list that he'd like to get done in this next-to-last session of his final term.

They include a bill designed to encourage development of a wind-energy farm off the coast of Ocean City. The measure was the only one of his major green initiatives that failed last year, and approval would cap off his record of environmental legislation.

Last week Miller made a key change in the lineup of the Senate committee where the wind bill stalled last year. He expects the measure to win Senate approval this year.

Meanwhile, the governor has come under strong pressure from NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, among others, to once again lead a charge to repeal the death penalty. Repeal efforts have been stalled since 2009 because of a 6-5 majority in favor of capital punishment in a Senate committee.

Miller said last week that he would see the measure gets a floor vote if O'Malley can line up enough support in the Senate. Busch said that if the Senate passes repeal, the proposal would get a fair hearing in the House. He declined to predict the outcome, though death penalty opponents say they're confident they have the votes.

Meanwhile the issue of gun control could have a higher profile in Annapolis than it has in many years.

O'Malley is considering what aides called a "three-prong" legislative package in response to the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six educators. His proposals could include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, tighter licensing rules and measures to increase school safety.

As the issue has picked up momentum, Democratic legislative leaders have signaled support for banning assault rifles like the Bushmaster semiautomatic used in Newtown, Conn. Miller has said weapons "the size of suitcases" belong on a battlefield and not on Maryland streets. Busch said last week that the central debate is about why anyone needs access to guns with high firepower.

Another issue the Assembly seems certain to take up is speed cameras, the subject of a series of articles in The Baltimore Sun describing flaws in their operation in Baltimore and elsewhere.

Miller predicted that the legislature would make changes to the program, saying, "The abuses cannot be tolerated." But he said laws allowing cameras near schools and in highway work zones would not be scrapped.

"I don't see a backing down from the speed cameras now that they're in place," he said. "And they work. People are slowing down."

Another issue likely to receive high-profile attention this year is Baltimore's proposal for a long-term financial commitment from the state to build new schools — a guarantee of $32 million a year so the city can borrow the money to launch a $2 billion-plus rebuilding program. Baltimore County may seek a similar plan.

Miller said city schools are in great need of repair but expressed skepticism about the proposal. "Dedicating a big portion of money for a prolonged period of time is going to be extremely difficult without a funding source," he said.

Busch said questions remain unanswered. "Whether that's viable or not, I don't know," he said.

Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, a Republican from the Upper Shore, promised that his party would press its case vigorously on a range of issues, including gun rights and opposition to the governor's wind bill. But he said the GOP would play a constructive role.

"We are looking to come to the session with solutions to the issues," he said. "We're not coming to the session just to be the party of no."

Sun reporter Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

ecox@batsun.com

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