Governor Lawrence (Larry) Hogan, Jr. announced the repeal of regulations requiring the use of best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT) for septic systems, criticized the recently passed transportation scorecard legislation, and discussed other priorities that he intends to the focus on during the upcoming 2017 Session at the close of the 2016 MACo Summer Conference on August 20. A packed room of county and state officials was on hand to hear the Governor’s remarks.
MACo President and Washington County Commissioner John Barr introduced the Governor by stating, “You understand the importance of local government.”
Governor Hogan thanked county leaders for their hard work and dedication and referencing back to his inability to attend last year’s conference due to his battle with cancer, said that he was “truly thrilled to be here.” He also stated that “we will do everything in our power” to continue the State’s partnership with MACo.
Turning to policy updates, the Governor noted that his administration will remain focused on: (1) economic development and job creation; (2) transportation infrastructure; (3) tax reform; and (4) easing burdensome regulatory requirements.
Budget & Economic Development
Discussing Maryland’s economic and budget status, Hogan stated that his administration has eliminated 91% of the structural deficit and added more than 76,000 private sector jobs. He disclosed that Maryland has gone from last place to first place in the Mid-Atlantic region for job creation and in March was the #1 state in the nation for job growth and creation.
In addressing BAT septics, Hogan argued that while BAT septics were needed within the 1,000 foot critical area next to coastal and Chespeake Bay waterways, they created an unnecessary burden on homeowners located outside of the critical area. Hogan’s announced that “on Monday [August 22], the Maryland Department of the Environment will be revising regulations and eliminating the requirement [outside of the critical area].”
He also stated that his Administration successfully implemented a new phosphorus management tool to limit phosphorus runoff from agricultural lands and invested $53 million in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund – the highest in history. Hogan also noted his sponsorship and support of enacted legislation that would make future budgetary cuts against Program Open Space (POS) and provided $62 million in POS funding. Finally, Hogan said that his Administration was continiuing to work on sediment issues raised by the Conowingo Dam.
Hogan also announced that the State would be splitting the cost of new voting machines with the counties and noted that the Board of Public Works recently voted to approve the matching funds MACo had requested.
Governor Hogan stated that he would “continue to fight for the full restoration of Highway User Revenues” and has invested an “unprecedented and historic $2 billion in infrastructure projects to fix every single structurally deficit bridge” and road projects. He had strong words for the transportation scoring legislation (HB 1013 of 2016) that the General Assembly passed over his veto. “[This bill] has the potential to kill nearly all priority road and bridge improvements in every single jurisdiction across the state,” he warned. Although he noted that the General Assembly has agreed to delay implementation of the bill for a year, he will “push for the repeal of this legislation.”
Hogan concluded by noting that “we are stronger when we work together to get things done for the people we serve” and promised that counties and MACo “will always find a sympathetic ear and a seat at the table.”
Barr thanked both the Governor and his cabinet and staff for being willing to work with county governments.
Other Coverage of Governor’s Address
A Baltimore Sun article (2016-08-20) offered some additional perspectives on the Governor’s proposed BAT Septic repeal:
Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland, criticized Hogan’s decision to reverse the rule barring installation of older, low-tech septic systems throughout the state, limiting the ban to the “critical areas” within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay.
“Why is it OK to protect water within 1,000 feet of the bay, but it’s not OK to protect the water that’s in the streams, the ponds, the lakes and our drinking water?” she said.
Both Schmidt-Perkins and [House Environment and Transportation Committee Chair Kumar] Barve said they might push for legislation to codify the O’Malley rule in law.
Michael Sanderson, executive director of MACO, said the rule was a particular concern near state borders, where it could make houses more expensive than those in Delaware or Pennsylvania.
Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said the rules can add $10,000 to $20,000 to the cost of a home. He stressed that the rules would not change in the critical areas or for large septic systems with a capacity of 5,000 gallons or more.
Grumbles said his department also would step up efforts to require the replacement of failing septic systems.
“It’s about a smarter, more effective way to make environmental progress,” he said. “We are going to strive for a smarter, more balanced approach.”
A Washington Post article (2016-08-20) focused on the transportation scorecard legislation:
St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners President James Randy Guy (R) said he talked with the governor about the issue at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in Ocean City, which is the state’s largest annual gathering of elected officials.
“He said we need to repeal the [transportation scorecard] bill,” Guy said. “What will happen now, who knows?” …
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn held back-to-back meetings with county officials from across the state throughout the conference to discuss their transportation priorities. He said every one of the officials he spoke with expressed concerns about the scoring system. …House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) defended the funding law, saying Marylanders deserve to know how and why their tax dollars are spent on transportation projects.
“I don’t understand why [the Maryland Department of the Transportation] won’t work with the General Assembly in a bipartisan manner to create a scoring system that addresses their concerns while creating transparency,” he said. …
Frederick County Executive Jan H. Gardner (D), who supports transportation scoring to identify high-priority projects, said Democrats and Republicans need to set aside politics and work together on either clarifying the law or setting guidelines for the rating system.
“Elected leaders are supposed to lead, and we need to problem-solve this,” she said. “We have a year now, so we need to make this something that is clearly understandable and works for people in every part of the state. Transportation is a common interest.”