Maryland voters will decide the fate of as many as a half-dozen measures, in addition to voting for a president on Election Day in November.
Two of the bills likely going to a ballot vote in the fall are linchpins of Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration: One would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, and the other, called the Maryland Dream Act, would provide in-state college tuition rates to children of illegal immigrants.
With the weight of his national reputation on the line, O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, is aggressively campaigning for both bills.
O'Malley signed the Dream Act into law last year after it was passed by the General Assembly, but its enactment was stalled by a successful petition to send the measure to the ballot, giving Maryland residents the chance to vote on the issue in November. Opponents of the same-sex marriage law, which the General Assembly passed earlier this year, are making a similar petition drive to force a public vote on same-sex marriage. Maryland law allows voters to seek a referendum vote on most legislation except state appropriations and liquor-related measures.
O'Malley is soliciting donations from supporters to fight opponents of the measures.
"This issue is about fairness and basic human dignity for all," O'Malley said in an email this month asking for donations for Educating Maryland Kids, a group established to defend the Dream Act.
Maryland voters also may be asked to vote on whether to expand gambling in the state. O'Malley has appointed a commission to study the expansion of gambling by adding a sixth Maryland casino in Prince George's County and allowing table games such as blackjack and roulette at the state's casinos. If the commission decides the state should consider the expansion, O'Malley said he plans to call a special General Assembly session so lawmakers can vote on the issue in July. Any expansion of gambling must be approved by Maryland residents.
On Montgomery County's ballot, voters also will be asked to decide on whether to uphold a local law curbing police bargaining rights. A recently passed fee for ambulance services also is also expected to show up on the ballot. The fee, which would average $300 to $800, was struck down by a referendum in 2010, but the Montgomery County Council approved it this month after it was brought back by County Executive Ike Leggett.