GOV. LARRY Hogan of Maryland, a Republican whose campaign last fall not surprisingly railed against the policies of the incumbent Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley, thus far seems more inclined to tweak than trash those policies. That’s probably a good thing.
In recent days, Mr. Hogan’s administration has watered down proposed regulations designed to limit fertilizer pollution from fouling the Chesapeake Bay and waterways on the Eastern Shore — but without gutting them entirely or denying their importance.
The new governor is seeking savings in the planned $2.45 billion Purple Line light rail project that would run between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties north of the District, but not canceling it outright.
And Mr. Hogan is redoubling the state’s efforts to fight soaring rates of heroin overdoses, without any fundamental shift in approach.
What’s striking in each of those instances is that while Mr. Hogan’s actions, as far as they can be judged so far, may represent a somewhat more conservative approach, they also seem to suggest more continuity than his acerbic campaign rhetoric might have led Marylanders to expect.
After all, Mr. Hogan took office promising farmers he would “fight” to scrap the pollution standards, telling rural counties that he was more interested in building roads than transit and trashing Mr. O’Malley’s supposedly inadequate steps to grapple with the lethal toll of rising heroin abuse.
A fight may still materialize over proposed rules to control the overuse of chicken manure fertilizer on the Eastern Shore, a major contributor to fish-killing “dead zones” in the bay and its tributaries. Those rules, postponed and rewritten at least twice by Mr. O’Malley in the face of pushback by farmers and the poultry industry, have now been softened by Mr. Hogan in a way that agricultural interests can accept, but environmentalists might not. For one thing, in the governor’s formulation the rules could be suspended by state officials if they prove too onerous to poultry producers, an escape hatch that could negate the regulatory effort entirely.
On the Purple Line, Mr. Hogan’s intentions are not clear. It’s fair to look for cost savings from firms bidding to build it, as his top transportation official is asking. But if postponements end up endangering a project that could revitalize a string of communities, it will subvert the new governor’s stated commitment to rebrand Maryland as friendlier to business.
As for fighting heroin abuse, it turns out that Mr. Hogan’s campaign promise to declare a “state of emergency” had minimal policy significance; he has formed a task force and a coordinating council, steps that don’t deviate from Mr. O’Malley’s, and added no funds to programs for treating addicts. Still, he has raised the issue early and forthrightly, and now will be judged on whether the state is able to reverse the spike in overdoses, which have more than doubled since 2010 and claimed more lives in 2013 than did homicides.
Most Marylanders won’t be disappointed if Mr. Hogan’s evolving policies put him on a course to govern from the center.