ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Tuesday he will consider changes to the Senate Finance Committee, if that is necessary to advance an offshore wind measure to the full Senate for debate in the upcoming legislative session.
"People have to understand that this is a shared burden for improving planet Earth, and moving our state where a number of other states and European countries are going for the benefit of not just our state but the entire planet," Miller said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Miller, D-Calvert, said he would be reluctant to take the step of changing the committee's membership, but he said he is willing to make the unusual move to have a debate on a measure that has failed to reach the Senate floor the last two years. The Senate president also noted he would not be as inclined to make changes to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to advance a repeal of capital punishment, which is locked up in a close vote in that committee.
The difference, Miller said, is the offshore wind measure has not been debated on the Senate floor.
"I might have to do that in terms of getting out a wind power bill to the floor, because it's been two years now and two years of testimony and two years of hearings, and environmentalists feel that this is an issue that needs to be debated on the floor, as contrasted to the death penalty, where just three years ago we got it to the floor and had extensive debates and it was modified," Miller, D-Calvert, said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has pushed unsuccessfully for the offshore wind measure in the last two legislative sessions, and he is expected to try again.
A scaled-back version of the bill passed the House of Delegates last year on an 88-47 vote. The bill would have helped develop offshore wind off the coast of Ocean City in as soon as five years.
Miller said he supports offshore wind, with qualifications. The Senate president also said there are a number of factors that need to be considered, such as how much it would cost, where workers would come from, and what parts of the state would benefit. Under last year's offshore wind proposal, residential utility customers would have paid about $1.50 a month.
"We're going to debate this this year," Miller said, referring to the wind proposal. "The death penalty, I'm not certain. I think, probably, if it's not this year, probably next year."
In 2009, when O'Malley led a push to repeal capital punishment, the Senate passed a compromise measure that restricted the death penalty to murder cases with biological evidence such as DNA, videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession. Maryland has not had an execution since O'Malley became governor in 2007, and Miller noted that capital punishment is rarely used in the state. Maryland has five men on death row.
Miller said he still believes in keeping the death penalty on the books to apply in extreme cases such as mass murderers. As an example, he mentioned sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad, who terrorized the Washington area 10 years ago. Muhammad was executed in Virginia in 2009.
"I just think for mass murderers I think there needs to be a special category for people like that," Miller said. "We don't need to continue to subsidize them, prolong their life."
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