Beginning an uphill climb in Annapolis
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.