Lost amid our gloom and doom over the tea partiers' nonsensical, reactionary effort to bring down effective government in Washington is this happy local counterweight: 2013 has been an incredibly fruitful year for the forces of forward-thinking government in Annapolis and throughout Maryland.
October is not only the month when federal expenditures are debated and approved; it is also the starting-point for much of the legislation passed in the spring session of our General Assembly. Other laws enacted in previous years, subsequently challenged and then wisely ratified by Maryland voters, went into effect earlier this year. Consider these revolutionary 2013 developments:
•Most notably, of course, Marylanders who have been denied necessary medical care because they could not afford health insurance will now have coverage and good care. The Affordable Care Act has triggered creation of the Maryland Health Connection under the wise guidance of Dr. Joshua Sharfstein and the O'Malley administration, which has begun to take applications for expanded — and more affordable — coverage for thousands of our citizens. Many of the startup computer glitches with our local exchange were attributable to greater-than-anticipated response by thousands of Maryland's uninsured, and those seeking improved coverage at lower cost.
•Beginning also this month, reasonable measures to reduce gun violence are being put in place by the Maryland State Police. The new Firearms Safety Act bans sale of assault weapons and large magazines and requires fingerprint-based background checks and licensing — measures blocked at the federal level by the venal efforts of the National Rifle Association and its allies but overwhelmingly supported by residents of the Free State.
•Through the insistence of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the efforts of Sen. Brian Frosh and others, Maryland this month joins the ranks of many progressive states — and the rest of the civilized world — in relegating the discriminatory death penalty to the dustbin of history.
•The Dream Act, enacted in 2011, was approved by Maryland voters in referendum last November. Beginning this fall, students who through no fault of their own lack proper immigration status are permitted to attend college on an equal footing with other tax-paying Maryland residents so they can receive the tools to contribute mightily to our local economy.
•In the most startling reversal of public acceptance, same-sex marriage has been ratified by our voters, according full privileges of Maryland citizenship to this deserving minority. The first weddings took place on New Year's Day.
•Finally, Maryland subdivisions were mandated to put in place this year a number of savvy environmental measures, including an innovative stormwater management system and progressive land use legislation. These balanced initiatives will ensure measurable progress finally in protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries while promoting sustainable agriculture — recognizing the rights of our farmers to continue to contribute to Maryland's economic growth and prosperity.
Not in recent memory have we Marylanders enjoyed so many enduring rewards of our enlightened state government in a single year. Entering the 21st century, Maryland proudly ranked No. 1 in the nation in our public school system, as well as in average family income. Now our activists can rejoice over culmination of an unprecedented number of major public-sector victories — many long in gestation, which have finally borne fruit. For all of our citizens, 2013 is truly morning in Maryland!
Mike Pretl is a retired attorney. He lives in Riverton. A version of this article originally appeared in The Daily Times.