Democratic lawmakers in Maryland on Wednesday accused Gov. Larry Hogan (R) of failing to work with them, saying Hogan doesn’t make clear which bills he supports and state agencies don’t give information that is needed to properly consider various bills.
Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said the Hogan administration was “abdicating responsibility” with less than a month left in the annual legislative session. He told the governor to “put on your big boy pants” and take a position on bills.
Aides to Hogan called the complaints unfounded, saying the administration and state agencies have testified and provided information in writing on hundreds of pieces of legislation. The interaction between department heads and legislation “may not be happening the way they want,” but it is taking place, spokesman Doug Mayer said.
Hogan and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly have been at odds since the governor took office last year — battling over the budget, engaging in name calling and blaming each other for a lack of communication.
Last month, during a radio interview, the governor compared legislators who oppose his initiatives to irresponsible college students on spring break.
On Wednesday, just before the Senate adjourned for the day, lawmakers stood one by one to offer examples of what they called a lack of interaction between the legislative and executive branches.
Pinsky, the vice chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said he was irritated because no one from the Department of Environment came to a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would require the state to pay remediation costs for the contaminated water supply for a town in Kent County.
The measure was introduced by a Republican, Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (Kent).
The committee wanted to know where the administration stood on the bill, Pinsky said. Instead, lawmakers were offered a “letter of information” that did not say whether the administration supported the bill, opposed it or had amendments that it wanted to offer.
“I think it’s a disservice not only to the 47 of us but to the citizens of this state,” Pinsky said. “Engage with us.”
Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) said the Judicial Proceedings Committee has been considering a bill to increase the allowable weight of chicken trucks and has repeatedly asked the administration whether a 10-pound increase in weight would be okay on Maryland roads.
“If we can’t get an answer, we can’t vote on the bill,” Brochin said. “If we can’t vote on the bill, we can’t compete with Delaware” and its poultry industry.
“I don’t question the governor’s motives, and I don’t think he thinks he’s above anybody,” he said. “But . . . we need them to come and give us conditions so we can create better public policy in the state.”
Republican lawmakers who weighed in offered a defense of the governor that seemed in some ways half-hearted. Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County) objected to Pinsky arguing that some members of Hogan’s staff must lack the technical skills needed to address the questions committee members have. Hogan’s staff, Jennings said, is “highly vetted and highly qualified.”
Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-Harford) said Democratic lawmakers are accustomed to having a Democratic governor, arguing that former governor Martin O’Malley (D) essentially led the legislature by the hand.
Matthew Clark, a Hogan spokesman, suggested that “there might be some level of frustration” from lawmakers because more bills than usual have been introduced this session.
“There isn’t any real evidence that the administration is not fully engaged in the process,” Clark said. “We are testifying, we are sending letters . . . I don’t think there is substance to these claims.”