As Legislature Convenes, Lawmakers Pour Cold Water on Hogan Proposals

The Democrats who control the Maryland legislature returned to Annapolis this week disinclined to adopt proposals advanced by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), an early sign that lawmakers will work actively to limit the first-term governor’s effectiveness as he — and they — prepare to face voters in November.

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House Speaker Michael E. Busch addresses his colleagues on the first day of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session.  Photo by Bruce DePuyt

In the days leading up to the 2018 General Assembly session which began Wednesday, Gov. Hogan had proposed an investigator general position be created within the Maryland Department of Education to combat what he called “rampant instances” of corruption. He also has advocated for term limits for legislators and live-streaming House and Senate floor sessions.

The investigator general proposal comes in the wake of reports of children being forced to wear coats in chilly Baltimore city classrooms and grade-altering allegations in Prince George’s County.

“We have instances and issues all around the state,” the governor told reporters as he unveiled his proposals.

Legislative leaders wasted no time pouring cold water on some of Hogan’s ideas.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the investigator general proposal.

“You have a state school board. You have elected, local schools boards, county governments and county executives. I think you have enough checks and balances to deal with the school system. If there’s a way to fine tune that, I’m willing to look at it. But the idea of creating another bureaucracy, I have some concerns about,” Busch said.

Miller, Fry, Cardin
Jan. 10 marked the first day of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, left, talks with Greater Baltimore Committee President Don Fry, center, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s) was more blunt: “It’s politics. It’s election-year politics. By this time next year he’ll re-think it [and say], ‘Last year I thought it was a good idea but maybe we don’t need it.'”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D), a potential Hogan rival in November, said, “Right now, the governor appoints every member of the state school board. They have the ability today to come in and audit any jurisdiction in the state. … So the governor could easily, right now, have the state come in.”

Hogan disagreed.

“Our legal team believes that we need legislation to create this position. … Most people want to see us find a way to change the law so that there’s more accountability,” he told reporters.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh
Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh is interviewed Wednesday at the State House in Annapolis. Jan. 10 was the first day of the 2018 General Assembly session. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Lawmakers also are likely to brush aside the governor’s proposal to establish eight-year term limits for newly elected legislators, despite his claim that “our Founding Fathers never envisioned professional politicians who spend their entire careers in office. What they intended was citizen legislators who would represent their constituents and then return back home to their real jobs, just as George Washington did.”

Veteran lawmakers say a General Assembly devoid of seasoned legislators would make lobbyists and staff more powerful.

“It sounds good in theory,” said Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s), chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee. “It takes a while to get the institutional knowledge.”

Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) added, “This is my eighth session, and I’m still learning.”

Rank-and-file legislators spoke favorably of the governor’s proposal to live-stream House and Senate floor debate and votes.

“I have no problem with that,” Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard) said. “There’s nothing secret going on.”

“It gives you the opportunity to own your votes,” Wilson said.

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent more than two decades on local television, including 14 years as host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the D.C. metro region. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County, as well as a reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. Bruce also is the host of the weekly The Bruce DePuyt Podcast.

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