Republican Larry Hogan says he will continue focusing on his economic message that Maryland taxes are too high and regulations are overly constrictive to attract businesses, as he campaigns down the stretch against Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in Maryland’s governor’s race. Hogan also outlined some social concerns in an interview with The Associated Press, including plans to take a greater interest in pardons and commutations and fighting heroin. Here are some highlights from the AP interview:
Hogan said he would take a greater interest in clemency requests. He noted that former Gov. Robert Ehrlich made clemency issues a priority of his tenure from 2003 to 2007. Hogan said that while he considers himself to be a tough law and order candidate, he believes sometimes the criminal justice system makes mistakes, and the clemency process provides a way for a governor to decide whether a person’s case deserves a second look or a second chance. “We’d like to go back to the way it was done in the Ehrlich administration, and I’d like to get Governor Ehrlich’s input and help on that,” Hogan said. Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign spokesman, said each request would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. “The governor’s authority to review clemency requests is one of the governor’s most sacred responsibilities,” Schall said.
After Bechtel Corp. announced last week it is moving a substantial number of jobs from Frederick, Maryland, to Reston, Virginia, Hogan says he has met with McCormick and Co., officials to persuade the spice producer to stay in Maryland. The loss of jobs from Bechtel comes after the state approved a $9.5 million grant in 2011 to keep the company from moving. “We just want to make it a place where people want to stay, not where you have to pay them to stay,” Hogan said. Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, says the loan was conditional on the company keeping employees in the state over seven years. She says the state expects to get more than $3 million back plus interest from the $4 million disbursed so far.
Hogan pledged he would immediately declare a state of emergency over the state’s heroin epidemic to make Maryland eligible for federal funding and support. Hogan promised to work closely with drug counselors to expand treatment opportunities. Hogan said he will require all law enforcement agencies to carry Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. In July, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration announced it was redoubling efforts to battle drug overdose deaths due to a spike in heroin, which caused 148 deaths in the first quarter of this year in Maryland. In June, O’Malley created an Overdose Prevention Council to focus on the problem, and Maryland has trained 2,000 people across the state to use Narcan.
Hogan said he’d seriously consider prohibiting vertical drilling for shale gas in the Deep Creek watershed in far western Maryland, a position favored by the Garrett County Board of Realtors and the Deep Creek Lake Property Owners Association to protect the tranquility of the area. The 41,000-acre watershed comprises about 10 percent of the county, including areas overlying Maryland’s portion of the gas-rich Marcellus shale. Hogan said he favors extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique that involves both horizontal and vertical drilling. Prohibiting vertical drilling within the watershed wouldn’t prevent companies from drilling vertically on the perimeter and then horizontally to reach the gas. Brown said this weekend he would support natural gas drilling, after studies conclude it can be done without damaging residents’ health or the environment.
Hogan has aggressively criticized Brown for his role in the state’s flawed health care exchange website. Hogan says he’s not certain what the answers will be to get the technologically troubled exchange website working well. “They wanted to be first, and they wanted to be best. They didn’t worry about getting it right. They rushed to judgment, I think, and I don’t want to do the same thing,” Hogan said. Brown has said he shares responsibility along with many others involved with the health care rollout. Brown also has contended more than 400,000 people have health care in Maryland now than before health care reform.