Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said March 15 that a bill crafted by lawmakers would prevent the cancellation of 66 road projects around the state, the result of a compromise on legislation to score and rank transportation projects.
Lawmakers sidestepped a potentially ugly confrontation by agreeing to legislation that would delay the affect of the scoring system for two years — long enough to get past the 2018 election. The House of Delegates has yet to act on the measure.
The governor had fought for full repeal of the ranking system, but declared victory on the compromise.
"It doesn't matter to me what you call it," the governor said. "The people of Maryland have won because all of our most important road projects are moving forward."
Hogan says the scoring system in current law requires him to issue a transportation plan that would cancel state funding for projects in all but a few urban counties. Lawmakers and the Maryland Attorney General's Office have disputed the administration's interpretation, saying the governor has authority to fund a lower-ranked project if he provides an explanation.
At a State House news conference March 15, Hogan praised the legislature for making progress on some of his bills and chided them over their lack of action on others as the 90-day session moves into its final weeks.
He chastised the Senate for rejecting one of his nominees and criticized Senate President Thomas Mike Miller for the delayed confirmation vote on another.
The governor declared a truce, however, on the measure he labeled "the road kill bill."
Hogan bitterly fought the bill since it was first introduced in last year's General Assembly session — largely in reaction to his decision to cancel the roughly $3 billion Baltimore Red Line project. The bill passed over Hogan's veto last year.
He kept up his criticism after last year's session, insisting that the scoring system mandated by the law required him to follow it in setting priorities for funding transportation projects.
The amended repeal bill would restore the original law if a work group fails to come up with a revised scoring system that can win legislative approval by the 2019 session.
"While I'm governor nothing like that will take effect, but I'm happy to have them study the issue for two more years and come up with a proposal that makes more sense," he said.
Asked whether he would sign a bill moving through the legislature that would ban the natural gas extraction method called fracking, Hogan demurred. He said he didn't know whether a ban was needed, but promised to take a look at whatever lawmakers sent to his desk.
Hogan expressed satisfaction with the legislature's progress on his bills addressing the issues of sex trafficking, clean water and opioid addiction. He criticized committees for not taking action on his proposed ethics reforms and creating a less-partisan redistricting process.
The governor reserved his strongest language for the Senate's treatment of his nominees.
He criticized the Senate Executive Nominations Committee for its rejection of his nomination of Wendi Peters as head of the Department of Planning, accusing the panel of treating her "in a demeaning, sexist way."
Hogan called for the Senate to confirm Dennis Schrader as Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene. Schrader, a former Howard County councilman, has been acting secretary since December, but the committee has yet to hold a hearing on his nomination.
The governor said Miller was holding action up for "political reasons" and portrayed Schrader as his "point man" in delicate negotiations with the Trump administration over Maryland's future in whatever system replaces the Affordable Care Act.
Hogan hinted that if the outcome is unfavorable, he'll point the finger at the Senate leader.
"I'm going to personally blame Mike Miller if anything happens because of his games-playing," Hogan said.