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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Amid congratulatory bill signings, Hogan vows repeal of BPW bill

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Michael E. Busch at Tuesday's bill signing. (Bryan P. Sears)

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Michael E. Busch at Tuesday’s bill signing. (Bryan P. Sears)

Gov. Larry Hogan is vowing to force the legislature to repeal a new law that strips the Board of Public Works of its oversight of state funding for school construction and renovation projects.

Hogan made the promise while speaking to reporters outside his official residence in Annapolis. He called the passage of the bill, and the legislature’s override of his veto, as “the biggest disappointment of the session.”

“That was a purely political move,” said Hogan. “It was really an attack on the comptroller but it hurt citizens that billions of dollars for our school systems are no longer accountable. The fiscal leaders of our state no longer have control over this. It was a really bad decision, but we’re going to repeal that next year.”

Democratic lawmakers pushed the bill through in the final days of the session and forced Hogan’s hand on a veto. Many made it clear that the bill was in response to Comptroller Peter Franchot and what they considered to be his meddling in local school decisions.

Hogan put aside his complaints about the BPW bill during a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

The three signed 114 bills into law. Tops on the list was a measure that will create statewide standards for school safety in the wake of school shootings in Florida and most recently in St. Mary’s County. The law also calls for the creation of a method to identify students who may pose a danger before an incident can occur.

Hogan also signed legislation that takes a unique approach to stabilize health insurance rates in the state health care exchange’s troubled individual market.

The bill taps about $380 million that health insurance companies no longer have to pay in federal taxes due to changes in the federal tax code to help prevent rising premiums for about 150,000 people. A separate bill the governor already has signed creates a long-term plan to preserve the exchange through a reinsurance program.

Reinsurance sets aside money to help insurance companies cover the most expensive medical claims. Several states have created reinsurance programs, but Maryland is the first to fund it this way.

Hogan praised Miller and Busch for their bipartisanship, contrasting their work across political aisles in Annapolis with inaction in partisan Washington.

“And the stakes here were tremendous, but we faced this crisis together, and we addressed it head-on,” Hogan said.

But Hogan has no warm feelings about the BPW bill,  and he compared it to other laws passed by the General Assembly for which he pushed for a repeal.

“It’s just like the legislature sometimes makes these mistakes,” Hogan said. “They passed this rain tax mandate. We promised to repeal it, and we did. They passed this terrible road kill bill, then they overrode my veto of the bill, then we make them almost unanimously repeal it in the final session.”

Hogan made repealing the 2012 stormwater management plan a cornerstone of his victorious 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

The success of his effort to repeal the law remains up for debate.

Counties are still required to implement sediment mitigation projects. The revised law, however, more expressly allows counties to determine how they will be paid for.

Environmentalists who supported the original stormwater management law applauded passage of the 2015 revisions in a bill sponsored by Miller. That measure made it more difficult for counties with fees in place to eliminate them and imposed new reporting requirements, as well as the ability to punish jurisdictions that do not substantially reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.

Two years ago, Hogan vowed to repeal a controversial transportation project scoring system imposed by the General Assembly. Ultimately, the legislature returned in 2017 and effectively turned the new law into a study of the scoring system.

Hogan declared victory on both, and he promised a similar outcome on the 2018 Board of Public Works law.

“People aren’t going to stand for this. You can’t take away authority and accountability,” said Hogan. “It was a stupid thing to do, and we’re going to fix it.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)


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