Miller Offers “Grand Bargain” on Transportation Scorecard Bill

At the high profile hearing for SB 307, Governor Hogan’s proposal to repeal the transportation scorecard legislation enacted last year, Senate President Miller testified in support of a proposed “compromise” that would delay the scoring system’s effect for two years while a select work group would be empaneled to work through the system. The Administration and Department officials testifying in support of the repeal legislation expressed an initial reluctance, but indicated appreciation for the movement on the sticky issue.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan‘s administration is refusing to compromise with Democrats on a controversial transportation scoring law, demanding its full repeal before they entertain anything else.

“We can’t salvage this law,” Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Wednesday. Hogan’s chief legislative officer, Christopher Shank, said if the administration discusses a compromise, “that conversation has to begin with repeal.”

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in support of Senate Bill 307, indicating that MACo would support either a “repeal” or “replace” path forward. He indicated he was “heartened” by the proposed movement from the Senate President, who had reaffirmed that “we’re not going to pass a repeal,” but distributed amendment language to Committee members.

Sanderson outlined several areas for any workgroup to focus on — including specifying the Department’s ability to score projects differently based on region or mode, to specify the intended analytical responsibilities between the Department and counties, and to clarify the “advisory” nature of the legislation. He also urged local input into any review going forward.

Background

The bill as introduced repeals the 2016 legislation creating a “scorecard” for major transportation projects. That bill, with its many prescriptive elements, and the subsequent implementing regulations, have left counties deeply concerned about the process for selecting major transportation projects. MACo urges the General Assembly to remedy the current two-part scheme of legislative and regulatory interpretation that collectively place projects in jeopardy, and may overwhelm county transportation planning staff.

During the 2016 legislative session, MACo raised concerns with HB 1013, the legislation targeted by this year’s SB 307. In testimony, MACo raised concerns about respecting county input into project selection, overburdening county public works departments, and the potential for unfairness in the legislated scoring system. Many of these points were addressed, in whole or in part, through both House and Senate amendments.

During the interim, MACo was again alarmed by exchanges with the Maryland Department of Transportation, suggesting that a failure of counties to rapidly provide dramatically expanded information to defend proposed projects would result in them being “de-funded.” And finally, after the implementation of last year’s act was delayed pending adoption of regulations, MACo again expressed concern with the proposed Departmental regulations that failed to implement flexibility that we believe the legislation afforded. Taken together, counties fear the law and regulations’ scoring system will prove counterproductive and cumbersome.

From MACo testimony:

Imperfect scores undermine the entire system. An ideal scorecard system could advance the public’s ability to understand the State’s project selection process. Counties fear that the status quo, as a combined result of legislation and regulations, will substantially miss this mark. The Maryland public would not be well served if the Department were obliged to routinely offer a multitude of “rational basis” letters to assert an exception for a wide range of projects in order to retain funding, despite their project scores. Even though this process is spelled out in the law, a system that creates an unreasonable number of exceptions loses its utility.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.