John White is a political scientist at the Catholic University of America and an expert on Maryland politics. The next session of the state's General Assembly will begin Wednesday.

Social issues like gay marriage and illegal immigration dominated Maryland politics in 2012. How will this year be different?

I think it's going to be a much greater focus on the economy and taxes and spending. When you resolve some of these social issues, they're finished. They'll return their attention to education and transportation -- and the counties are always looking for more help from the state.

How will heightened speculation about Gov. Martin O'Malley's presidential ambitions affect his agenda?

To be positioned for a Democratic presidential primary, O'Malley had to do what he did regarding gay marriage and the Dream Act last year. Those are things he is going to point to. Further down the line, I anticipate the governor will put a lot of focus on climate change. But there are vulnerabilities. Obviously, if you are running up large deficits, that's a problem.

How did redistricting change Maryland politically?

Maryland is like the rest of the nation. The blue states are becoming bluer, and the red states are becoming redder. The question is what the Republican Party does next -- whether it follows the national route and says we're a party that is all consumed on taxes, or whether it goes another way, conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues. I was astounded that President Obama got 71 percent of the vote in Montgomery County. This was a county that used to elect Republican county executives. That kind of Republican used to do very well.

What developments are you excited about this year?

I don't see a whole lot to get terribly excited about -- maybe that's a good thing. We're back to the more mundane aspects of governing. How do you attract jobs to the state, etc.?