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Hogan creates new commission on Md. regulations

ANNAPOLIS — In a continuation on a campaign theme, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he is creating a commission tasked with reviewing and recommending changes to Maryland regulations.

Hogan said the commission will take three years to review regulations affecting everything from employment and labor to transportation, the environment and agriculture and land use.

Hogan said it was the No. 1 issue with business leaders during the campaign.

“Over and over and over again, every single day, everywhere in Maryland I heard that over-burdensome and out of control regulations were making it impossible for them to do business in Maryland,” Hogan said.

As co-chairs of the 12-member commission, Hogan named James A. Soltesz, president of a Rockville civil engineering firm that is one of four consortiums bidding to build the Purple Line, and Abba David Poliakoff, chairman of Securities Practice and Israel Practice at Gordon Feinblatt LLC.

Hogan said Soltesz, who was also on his transition team, would not have an ethical conflict of interest that would prevent him from serving on the commission while also bidding on a project valued at $2.5 billion. A letter from the state ethics commission last year advised Soltesz to limit his involvement with Purple Line issues to avoid appearances of an ethical conflict.

Also serving on the commission is James T. Brady, who served as the head of the Department of Business and Economic Development under Gov. Parris N. Glendening and was Hogan’s transition team chairman, and Jay Steinmetz, chief executive officer of Baltimore-based Barcoding Inc. and the author of a piece published in the Wall Street Journal about the difficulties of building and operating a business in Baltimore City.

Augustine panel

The commission is expected to begin a series of statewide public hearings to take testimony on the most troublesome regulations that in some ways is similar to the Augustine Commission last summer, named after its chairman, Norman Augustine.

That commission, created last spring by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, made five legislative recommendations, including the creation of a panel that will review proposed regulations for effects on the business community.

In addition to a review of regulations, Hogan’s executive order charges the commission with identifying barriers to job attraction and retention in Maryland and making recommendations to eliminate those barriers — identical to responsibilities of the Augustine Commission.

“Isn’t that part of what the Augustine Comm is doing?” Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, wrote on his Twitter account. “Did he create a duplicative red tape commission to study red tape?”

Deeper dive

Hogan said the effort will not duplicate the Augustine Commission but will take a deeper dive in an attempt to streamline existing regulations and make the state more responsive to business concerns.

In 2011, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, made such a review part of his focus in a State of the State Speech. The review resulted in as many as 150 obsolete regulations being culled from state code, according to Matthew Gallagher, O’Malley’s former chief of staff.

“This is really above and beyond the vetting process that already goes on with regulations already,” Gallagher said of reviews by O’Malley and Hogan. “It’s a pretty standard play in both the Democrats’ and Republicans’ playbooks.”

But Gallagher said O’Malley’s effort didn’t get a lot of participation from the business community the review was intended to help.

Brien Poffenberger, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in Maryland are supportive and eager for the review.

“This approach is the way to go,” Poffenberger said.

The first set of recommendations could come as early as December, in time for the next session of the General Assembly, with additional reports due in 2016 and 2017.