Be­gin­ning an up­hill climb in Annapolis

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The gavel came down Wed­nes­day to start Mary­land’s an­nual 90-day Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion, and South­ern Mary­land has one rookie leg­is­la­tor on its team — a team with a big up­hill climb ahead of it as the state’s 188 law­mak­ers start field­ing thou­sands of pieces of leg­is­la­tion.

Del. Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) is the new kid on the block in Annapolis. Clark, a Solomons busi­ness­man who had served three terms as a Calvert County com­mis­sioner, was se­lected last fall by Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) to re­place Tony O’Don­nell, who re­signed his District 29C seat last sum­mer to ac­cept Ho­gan’s ap­point­ment to the Mary­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

Clark will learn what the other Repub­li­cans al­ready know all too keenly — it’s a hard up­stream swim for the GOP in Annapolis against a blue tide of Democrats. Noth­ing gets done with­out some se­ri­ous com­pro­mise, and even with a Repub­li­can in the gov­er­nor’s man­sion, noth­ing is guar­an­teed for lo­cal law­mak­ers. Noth­ing ex­cept a strug­gle. That’s be­cause of the state’s 47 se­na­tors, only 14 are Repub­li­cans. And among the 141 del­e­gates, just 50 are from the GOP. Trans­porta­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues will be front and cen­ter un­til April in Annapolis, along with the ques­tion of how much and for how long busi­nesses should han­dle sick leave for em­ploy­ees.

The big­gest roads is­sue will be the trans­porta­tion scor­ing law passed by the Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity over Ho­gan’s veto. Crit­ics say the law en­dan­gers state road projects in ru­ral ar­eas of Mary­land in fa­vor of larger coun­ties’ mass tran­sit plans.

“The orig­i­nal [road scor­ing] bill was deeply flawed, deeply par­ti­san — bad idea,” Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) said ear­lier this month. “Un­for­tu­nately it passed. Now we are stuck with it. The way the bill was writ­ten, it re­ally makes a mess of trans­porta­tion fund­ing around the state.”

To re­peal the law, Ho­gan would have to per­suade 12 Demo­cratic se­na­tors to change their po­si­tion, and it would have to come out of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, chaired by Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles). Mid­dle­ton al­ready won a pet project for Charles County when Ho­gan last month an­nounced the plan­ning and con­struc­tion of a new Gov. Harry W. Nice Me­mo­rial Bridge to carry U.S. 301 across the Po­tomac from New­burg to Vir­ginia. “I can’t count that many Demo­cratic se­na­tors that are flip­pable” to re­peal the road scor­ing law, Waugh said. “This could be very ugly.”

Mid­dle­ton has vowed to fight Ho­gan’s veto of what the gov­er­nor calls the “Road Kill” bill, of­fer­ing that law­mak­ers are will­ing to sit down at the table with Ho­gan and fig­ure out ways to im­prove the bill rather than oblit­er­at­ing it al­to­gether. Mid­dle­ton also be­lieves that just be­cause Ho­gan an­nounced a plan to re­place the Nice bridge, that doesn’t mean it is nec­es­sar­ily a done deal.

Miller said law­mak­ers are spec­u­la­tive about how pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump will af­fect fund­ing for Mary­land projects, with Miller pledg­ing he would rather see bi­par­ti­san ef­forts to get things done rather than Democrats and Repub­li­cans fight­ing against each other.

We agree with Miller. Ho­gan has showed dur­ing his ten­ure so far that he is less will­ing to en­gage in par­ti­san pol­i­tics and would rather go it alone if he doesn’t seem to be get­ting what he wants, hence him re­ject­ing the South­ern Mary­land Del­e­ga­tion’s plan for the Nice bridge and an­nounc­ing his own. Our other Charles County rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­clud­ing Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D) and Del. Sally Jame­son (D), have pledged to look at what Charles County re­ally needs and what the county com­mis­sion­ers are ask­ing for, along with see­ing how Trump plans to run the show be­fore mak­ing any de­ci­sions on leg­is­la­tion for the county at the state level.

What­ever hap­pens this ses­sion, we hope the law­mak­ers elected into their po­si­tion do what is best for the cit­i­zens of their re­spec­tive ar­eas. South­ern Mary­land needs vary greatly from county to county, but we be­lieve all South­ern Mary­lan­ders want to see their govern­ment work­ing for them.

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