No compromise of Md. transportation ranking bill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants to repeal a bill he likes to call a “road kill bill,” but his attempt at getting that repeal — and lawmakers’ attempts to tweak the bill to save it — appear to have stalled, at least for now.

In a Wednesday hearing that revealed raw feelings from lawmakers, there was no vote on Hogan’s repeal effort.

Both lawmakers and representatives from Hogan’s office said they are open to talking about ways to improve the bill that calls on the state to rate transportation projects. But Wednesday’s hearings showed rifts remain.

Sen. Nancy King, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 39th District, asked Hogan’s chief legislative aid, Christopher Shank, if there were changes to the transportation bill that would make it workable.

“That conversation starts with the word repeal,” Shank said.

When Sen. Roger Manno, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County, asked about ways to get to an agreement on how to implement the regulations. Shank said the regulations were “unworkable.” A verbal spar ensued with Manno saying, “They’re your regulations;” and Shank replying, “They’re your bill, it’s your piece of legislation.”

Getting the transportation rating bill passed during last year’s General Assembly session proved tough. In Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing, Sen. Ed DeGrange, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 32nd District, made clear that the fight had gotten personal.

“I’ve never, never had anyone question my motives or integrity ever until this administration,” he said.

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 45th District, said he objected to the Hogan administration’s characterization of a Baltimore City project, the Red Line, as a “boondoggle” and the transportation scoring bill as a “road kill bill.”

While Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn joined Shank in explaining how the rating system would put some projects, such as those for Washington County, at the bottom of the list, McFadden referenced the cancellation of funding for Baltimore’s Red Line.

“The Baltimore region is getting screwed,” he said.

In an unusual move, Senate President Mike Miller, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 27th District, sat in on the hearing and then rose to speak. Standing at the witness table, he said the bill that Hogan is trying to repeal is a response to gridlock in Maryland’s most congested areas.

“Montgomery and Prince George’s County — they are stuck in gridlock. These people can’t move. They’re stuck in gridlock every day,” Miller said.

Miller was there to offer an amendment to the governor’s bill, but before he did, he said that the bill “was not faithfully implemented.” Miller then repeated what supporters of the ranking bill have said since it was first proposed, “This bill is advisory only,” something the Hogan administration insists isn’t the case.

Miller said he wanted the General Assembly to avoid the legislative gridlock on Capitol Hill.

“We need to do something different. We need to legislate and we can do that, but it takes the executive branch and the legislative branch working together.”

Miller introduced an amendment that would not require the state to score transportation projects for a period of two years. The amendment would also create a work group that would settle how to move forward on evaluating transportation projects for consideration.

Finishing his remarks before the Senate committee Wednesday, Miller shook hands with Shank, Rahn and Chris Carroll, the governor’s deputy legislative officer.

“So I offer a peace treaty, a peace pipe, and if I had a peace pipe, I’d smoke it in front of you all,” Miller said.

That generated laughter in the hearing room, but didn’t seem to move the committee. There was no vote on the repeal bill.

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