Things are not looking great for Gov. Larry Hogan’s first legislative agenda.
Committees in both chambers of the General Assembly voted down the Republican’s proposal to repeal the “rain tax.” Democratic leaders have openly mocked a bill that would halt automatic increases in the state gas tax. Legislation to make it easier for charter schools to open will probably be watered down, if it passes at all, leading lawmakers say.
Half a dozen other Hogan bills are awaiting the judgment of the legislature, where Democrats hold strong majorities in both the House and Senate.
On Tuesday, Hogan (R) acknowledged to reporters the high odds facing many of his bills — and claimed credit for legislation introduced by Democrats that he said mirrors some of his ideas.
“They may put someone else’s name on it, they may change the number of the bill, but we’re very confident that the main things we are here for are going to get done,” Hogan said. “We’re just going to get our agenda through.”
Hogan gave two examples: Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have introduced bills to improve the state’s business climate, which is a top Hogan priority. And although lawmakers have killed his proposal to no longer require that major jurisdictions collect a storm-water remediation fee, a similar “rain tax” bill proposed by Miller seems more likely to pass.
Hogan read reporters a section of his State of the State address from early February that detailed Maryland’s “anti-business attitude,” pointing out that Busch and Miller made similar comments about the business climate this week during a legislative hearing on their bills.
“A lot of them are now parroting things that we’ve been talking about for four years,” Hogan said. “The fact that we have got our No. 1 initiative moving forward, with the support of both houses, is exciting for us.”
Busch and Miller have said that their legislation is based on a business-climate study that they commissioned before Hogan was elected — not the governor’s campaign rhetoric.
Hogan’s “rain tax” bill was voted down in the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Friday, with lawmakers splitting along party lines. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee did the same on Tuesday — effectively killing the legislation.
Miller’s version of the bill, which was the subject of a hearing on Tuesday, would remove the state mandate for major counties and the city of Baltimore to collect the fee, just as Hogan’s did. But the legislation would require counties to submit a plan showing how they would pay for cleaning pollution out of stormwater.
“We created a bill that we didn’t need to create in 2012,” Miller said, explaining that counties always have had the authority to create a stormwater remediation fee. “This is basically a clean-up bill.”
Miller has gathered more than 30 sponsors for the legislation, almost certainly ensuring its passage in the Senate. The challenge could come in the House, where Busch has said he is opposed to dramatically changing the fee. Still, Hogan said he’s confident that it will ultimately pass.
“It doesn’t matter to me who gets the credit or whose name is on the bill,” Hogan said. ”Everybody knows that I’m the leading driver behind this movement . . . I was elected mainly on this issue.”