Politics

Minimum-Wage Hike, Pre-K Expansion at Top of Maryland Governor's Priorities

January 9, 2014

As his final legislative session got underway Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pressed his top priority, raising the minimum wage, and said he would help his preferred successor get a head start on a campaign promise: a major expansion of pre-kindergarten education.

O’Malley (D) is expected to propose funding the first year of a multiyear plan by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) to implement universal pre-kindergarten in Maryland. The first year’s installment would be “modest,” by Brown’s own description, but would probably give him a boost in a highly competitive Democratic primary to succeed O’Malley.

O’Malley also made clear during a morning radio interview Tuesday that supporters of legalizing marijuana should not expect his assistance during the 90-day session. O’Malley, who has embraced an array of liberal initiatives during his seven years in office, called recreational use of marijuana “a gateway to even more harmful behavior.”

The preview of the governor’s agenda, which will be formally unveiled this month, came on an opening day in Annapolis dominated by good cheer, ceremony and receptions. For a day at least, the introduction of family members and welcome-back tweets from the lawmakers largely took precedence over divisive policy issues and the election-year politicking that is expected to preoccupy the session.

Some of that could emerge as soon as Thursday, however, with the expected introduction of an O’Malley-backed bill to provide an alternative for Marylanders who were unable to obtain health insurance by Jan. 1 through the state’s glitch-plagued online exchange.

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