Much Still to Do, Assembly Racing to Finish; Tuition, Parole, Alcohol Bills in Play

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The General Assembly is in the stretch run of its legislative session and will consider several key bills Thursday, as just five days remain before the session ends.

The House agenda Thursday includes bills that would allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, change the parole process for criminals on life sentences, and establish a state-run venture-capital program.

House committees could also pass a Senate-approved tax increase on alcohol sales and an O'Malley administration-backed proposal to develop offshore wind energy, as legislators scramble to finish business before Monday's scheduled adjournment.

The tuition, parole and venture-capital bills are scheduled to reach the House floor Thursday morning for possible amendment and could get final chamber votes by the afternoon.

The venture-capital bill, which would establish the Invest Maryland program, is one of two proposals backed by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley that are gaining late-session traction after more than two months of bipartisan skepticism.

The House Ways and Means Committee finally passed the investment bill Tuesday, after sponsors agreed to reduce its funding from $142 million to $100 million. The program would allow insurance companies to purchase tax credits in return for their investment in technology startup companies throughout the state.

A Senate committee is also considering changes to the bill. The legislation would have to pass the House, a pair of Senate committees and the Senate.

As with all bills amended in both chambers, any Senate changes would go back to the House, which would either accept them or choose to negotiate with the Senate in a conference committee.

A second proposal by Mr. O'Malley, which would require utilities to purchase wind energy over the next 20 years, could on Thursday pass the House Economic Matters Committee, where Chairman Dereck E. Davis, Prince George's Democrat, voiced his support for the bill this week.

Both bills have languished in committees for months as legislators questioned Invest Maryland's feasibility and the wind bill's likelihood of increasing Marylanders' monthly utility bills. …