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Gov. Larry Hogan. (The Daily Record file)

Md. Senate holds up seven Hogan appointments

ANNAPOLIS — Seven appointees of Gov. Larry Hogan will not be part of a confirmation vote later this week, and some senators say at least some could face lengthy delays.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted Monday night to delay the confirmations of seven of the nearly six dozen appointees of Gov. Larry Hogan who are expected to be voted on as early as Friday. And while the chairman of the committee says the delays are part of the process, some Democratic senators made it clear that the some of the delays could be lengthy.

“None of the appointees should be aggrieved by this process,” said Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery and chairman of the committee. “This is precisely what is contemplated by our constitution — advice and consent. We consent, but we also advise along the way.”

All of those being delayed are appointees to boards overseeing education, transportation and energy issues — subject areas over which the Senate has clashed with Hogan since the start of the session.

“The governor is appointing people to boards that have a lot of authority and in some cases a substantially different philosophy than previous boards, even under Governor Ehrlich,” Sen. Richard S. Madaleno S. Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery and a member of the Executive Nominations Committee, said, referring to the most recent Republican governor.

Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said legislators should focus on one thing when it comes to the nominees they interview.

“If there’s politics involved it would be really disappointing,” Mayer said. “The governor stands by his appointees. Either they’re qualified or they’re not.”

And while lawmakers are saying at least some of the delays will be short, Madaleno warned that others could be a longer-term proposition. He singled out Michael Richard, whose appointment to the Public Service Commission was delayed along with that of Jeannette M. Mills.

Richard served as a deputy chief of staff to Hogan until his appointment to the Public Service Commission in January. A public interest group has filed a request for documents under the Maryland Public Information Act and is waiting for a reply, according to Madaleno.

“If they want to drag their feet — if the administration wants to drag their feet and not provide the information that they’re legally obligated to, we could wind up in a stalemate,” said Madaleno.

Four appointees to the Maryland Transportation Authority — Peter J. Basso, William C. Ensor, Michael G. Leahy, and Randall Nixon — were also delayed.

Legislators have raised issues about the board cutting tolls and causing delays in projects, such as the replacement of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland and planning for a future third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. suggested Monday night that politics drove the decision. Hogan touted the reduction as a partial fulfillment of his campaign pledge to reduce taxes and fees.

“I’m asking you to understand there’s politics but there’s also policy,” Miller told the four Monday night. “Look at the policy and forget the politics.”

Sen. Thomas M. “Mac’ Middleton, D-Charles and chairman of the Finance Committee, asked for the delay in order to schedule meetings with the new appointees.

“We haven’t had a chance to sit down and have a conversation,” Middleton said. “I’m the chairman of the committee, I would have thought that they would have at least sat down and had a conversation with me. The second thing is I just want to hear from them where they are in terms of policy. Everybody loves the toll reductions but the position that puts us in the next four years, there’s not a bent farthing that we can do anything with.”

“I just want to hear from them where we are on the policy and the planning and how are we going to move forward on the Harry Nice Bridge,” Middleton said.

Mayer said politics were not involved in the toll reduction decision.

“All of those board members were appointed by Governor O’Malley,” Mayer said.

The committee also held the appointment of Chester B. Finn to the state school board one day before the Senate recommitted a bill giving it confirmation powers over the next state schools superintendent.

Raskin, the chair of the committee, said Finn was interviewed early as a courtesy because of a scheduling conflict and that his confirmation vote could come next week after the committee interviews four other board appointments made by the governor.

But Madaleno said he and other senators have concerns about Finn and the other appointments.

“When you appoint people to the state school board who are longtime advocates for private schools and for-profit schools, you wonder what is their decision-making philosophy going to be about overseeing the public school system of the state,” Madaleno said. He added that that he is concerned Hogan will use the school board “to insert himself” into the labor negotiation process at the county level and “pick a fight with the teachers associations.”

“We have to listen to everybody together and hear where they’re going,” Madaleno said.

Mayer said the governor has done his job by making the appointments and the confirmation process is now in the hands of the Senate.

“Holding them up over some public information act request or over some other legislation, it that’s what they want to do on Executive Nominations, then they’re free to do that,” Mayer said.