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Hogan urges passage of school safety measure, other legislation

Bryan P. Sears//March 26, 2018

Hogan urges passage of school safety measure, other legislation

By Bryan P. Sears

//March 26, 2018

ANNAPOLIS —  Gov. Larry Hogan Monday called on Democratic leaders in the legislature to put more money into school safety improvements in the wake of a shooting in St. Mary’s County.

Hogan has proposed more than $125 million in improvements and grants, to be paid out of the state’s proceeds from casino gaming that is earmarked for education. The Republican governor said an effort between House and Senate Democrats to include as much as $41 million for school safety isn’t enough and may not be as much money as it appears to be.

“It’s not really $41 million,” said Hogan. “It’s confusing. It’s a piecemeal approach, and it’s not enough, and we don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Hogan made his comments Monday afternoon at a news conference at which he highlighted a number of initiatives he said require legislation before the 90-day session ends in two weeks.

The House and Senate are involved in conference committee efforts to finalize a state budget — something Hogan said he believes could be done by Tuesday.

In addition to the conference committee work, the legislature also held hearings Friday on a package of four school safety bills, including legislation sponsored by Sen. Stephen M. Waugh, R-Southern Maryland. Those bills were introduced days before the shooting at the high school in an area Waugh represents.

Hogan’s proposal was included in his version of a so-called “lockbox” proposal that is meant to ensure the state’s share of casino revenue goes to education. The governor linked more than $125 million in money for improvements and safety grants to his bill, which is competing with a Democratic measure that would make a similar lockbox provision part of the Maryland Constitution.

The legislature passed its own bill and effectively killed Hogan’s. The governor responded with a campaign video published on Facebook criticizing Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and 28 other Democratic senators for voting against it.

“I said exactly what I wanted to say, exactly the way I wanted to say it,” Hogan told reporters. “And I think we are now making progress, and I think we will get the bill done. I don’t know if that’s because of the shooting itself or my comments or simply timing, but the good news is we’re getting something done.”

That was days before a shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County killed Jaelynn Willey, 16, and wounded another boy.

Hogan amped up his criticisms of the legislature both in comments the day of the shooting about the failure to pass his bill. Miller, the following day, accused the governor’s campaign of increasing the circulation of the campaign video among Facebook users who live in Calvert County, where the Senate president lives.

Del. Eric G. Luedtke, D-Montgomery, told Hogan administration officials last week that he had “never been more disappointed in the governor’s comments.”

Del. Anne R. Kaiser, D-Montgomery and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said at the same hearing that lawmakers were taking the issues seriously despite the governor’s comments to the contrary.

But Hogan was unrepentant when asked about his earlier remarks.

“This is important,” said Hogan. “We’re talking about saving kids’ lives so I’m sorry if someone had their feathers ruffled, but this is about getting the bill done. They have two weeks to do it.”

Hogan urged the legislature — specifically the House of Delegates — to pass a number of bills focused on tax relief for small businesses to help offset the projected costs of a new paid sick leave law, human trafficking legislation; incentives to attract Amazon’s HQ2 project; and tougher sentences for repeat drunken driving.

But the governor said he expected lawmakers might try to send him some other politically motivated legislation early to try and force his hand in an election year.

“If that is, in fact, their plan, we think those bills should be the ones that address the issues that Marylanders care most about, like our school safety initiatives, our violent crime package, our tax relief measures, tax bills and education accountability measures,” Hogan said.

One bill he said is “worst idea I’ve ever heard of coming out of Annapolis” is a legislative proposal in the House of Delegates that would strip the Board of Public Works’ oversight of state school construction aid.

“Any talk of amending a bill to take away the authority of the Board of Public Works, its constitutional authority, to take the state’s top fiscal leaders out of the decision-making process on billions of dollars of school construction and turn that over to an unelected, nameless faceless committee hiding in secret to make those decisions in secret,” said Hogan. “It would be absolutely dead on arrival. We’d veto it the second it appeared in front of us.”


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