Legislators struck a deal Saturday morning to create two more slots on the Maryland Stadium Authority board — a new seat for Prince George’s County and another pick for the governor — breaking a quiet deadlock that threatened a Senate floor fight Monday.
Under a plan worked out among lawmakers and administration and county officials, a bill now being held in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee would be amended first thing Monday — the final day of the 90-day legislative session — to increase the size of the board so that Prince George’s County would have a vote.
“We have a solution…. We have something that everybody is good with,” said Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard), chair of Budget and Taxation. “We’re going to add two people on Monday morning. I’ll pull the committee together again, and we’ll leave the one on there for Prince George’s, and we’ll add another.”
The arrangement would allow the Prince George’s County executive to appoint a member to the board, as the Baltimore mayor now does. The second seat on the board, to be named by the governor, would bring the total number to 11 members overseeing the powerful and prestigious Maryland Stadium Authority.
“It was a misunderstanding that we came to an understanding on, and we’re going to move forward,” Guzzone said. “That happens.”
House Bill 542, as amended in the House Appropriations Committee before being sent to the Senate, raised the number of Stadium Authority board members from 9 to 10 — an even number, with no provision for a tie-breaker vote — giving Prince George’s a designated seat.
The Budget and Taxation Committee passed the bill Friday morning with the House amendment intact, but hours later, the panel met to strip the Prince George’s County spot from the legislation because the even number of board seats was problematic.
“We were all concerned about having an odd number on the authority,” Guzzone said.
Senators were told that Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) understood the issue and had okayed dropping the proposed seat, based on communications from the governor’s office, which was “absolutely part of this,” Guzzone said.
The later committee action, however, riled Prince George’s senators on Budget and Taxation, one of whom set about trying to reach Alsobrooks to confirm her supposed agreement to amend the bill. At least one senator tried to reach the staff of Gov. Wes Moore (D) to ask for him to intercede in the effort to leave the provision for the additional seat in the legislation.
At about 11:30 p.m. Friday, Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s), chair of the county’s Senate delegation, told two reporters he had yet been unable to get ahold of Alsobrooks that evening.
Alsobrooks was so concerned Saturday by the apparent misunderstanding that she issued a statement through her communications office.
“I am the county executive of Prince George’s County, and I would never agree to anything that would disadvantage Prince Georgians,” the statement read. “I spoke with our Senate delegation chair last night as things unfolded and made clear to him that the idea I would acquiesce to this was categorically false.”
The new Prince George’s appointment, which would be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, can be traced to an appropriation bill last year that authorized the Stadium Authority to sell up to $400 million in bonds to pay for construction of buildings — except for a stadium – in the so-called Blue Line Corridor in Prince George’s County.
The money was approved as an effort to jump-start transit-oriented development along the Washington Metrorail’s Blue Line.
The mayor of Baltimore — where two stadiums for professional sports teams were built — is empowered to appoint a member of the Stadium Authority board. The governor names six members, and the Senate president and House speaker each name one member.
Del. Ben Barnes (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, amended a funding bill requested by the Stadium Authority bill to include the Prince George’s board seat. In explaining it, Barnes specifically pointed to the Baltimore seat.
The annual $20 million for Bus Rapid Transit Fund grants was also included in the legislation to allow Montgomery County to take advantage of the $27 million in the State Lottery Fund that is deposited each year in the Maryland Stadium Facilities Fund for use by eligible grantees.
The bill would establish a Bus Rapid Transit Fund in the Maryland Department of Transportation where the lottery money would be deposited each year. Montgomery County, as one of the few “eligible” jurisdictions in the state, would be able to float bonds for bus rapid transit protects, based on the $20 million each year.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 442, sponsored by Sen. Paul D. Corderman (R-Washington), which would allow for the Stadium Authority to sell an additional $20 million in bonds to cover the shortfall for construction of the Hagerstown Multi-Use Sports and Events Facility, is expected to be approved Monday by the House of Delegates.
The legislation had been sitting in the House Appropriations Committee, but came flying out to the floor Saturday, when it was given preliminary approval.