Maryland bill aims to reshape public-private partnership process

Decisions on multibillion-dollar projects, such as the one to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, should have more accountability built into the process, according to one Maryland lawmaker.

State Del. Jared Solomon, a Democrat representing Montgomery County, is proposing legislation that would change the process for approving public-private partnerships, or “P3s” as they’re known in Annapolis.

Under Solomon’s proposal, an environmental-impact statement would have to be completed before any contracts are signed for projects. It would also require additional fiscal reporting.

In addition, Solomon said, “We’re looking at additional provisions that may very well offer a role for the General Assembly to approve these projects, rather than taking it completely out of the control of elected officials and leaving it only to the Board of Public Works — essentially three people.”

That’s a reference to the fact that projects such as a Beltway widening are subject to review and approval by the three-member Board of Public Works, which is comprised of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.

Hogan, who proposed the P3 project for the Beltway, recently canceled Wednesday’s scheduled meeting of the board without specifying why.

According to his office, there was a decision to move the vote to the new year.

But the move came after Franchot voiced concerns about changes made to the agreement that was submitted to the Board of Public Works, including changes to how money raised through tolling would be made available for transit.

This isn’t the first time Solomon and Maryland lawmakers have sought to gain more oversight over P3 agreements. Solomon sponsored a similar bill last year that failed.

The Hogan administration has championed P3 agreements as efficient and cost-saving ways to tackle large-scale projects.

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