Senate President Emeritus Mike Miller yesterday introduced legislation (SB 1069) to repeal the shore counties’ limited approval authority for new or expanded toll facilities.
Since 1978, the majority of affected county governments must consent to the construction of a toll road, toll highway, or toll bridge in Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.
According to Maryland Matters:
In an interview, Miller said local leaders should not have the power to block transportation projects — in this case, toll-funded roads and bridges — deemed a priority by the state.
“We need a state government and a governor and a state planning department looking at the transportation needs for the entire state,” he said. “We cannot enable one county or a combination of counties to have veto power over our transportation.”
Miller’s legislation might also be a statement — less about reversing the Eastern Shore law than about sending a message to lawmakers from other parts of the state who are also seeking veto power over major highway projects.
HB 292/SB 229 – Toll Roads, Highways, and Bridges – County Government Consent Requirement – Expansion would expand the shore counties’ approval authority to all 23 counties Baltimore City if they are affected by any such toll road, toll highway, or toll bridge.
While MACo did not take a position either in favor of or in opposition to the bill, MACo did submit a letter suggesting that any new law should be placed alongside, rather than in place of, the current privilege afforded to the nine Eastern Shore counties.
From MACo’s letter:
As you consider this proposal, we hope that you will consider these potential unintended effects on a matter of great importance to the shore counties. MACo would suggest that were any proposal to advance from the Committee, its best path would be to leave the current Transportation Section 4-407 completely intact, and enshrine any new policy regarding projects other than a Bay crossing in a new, stand-alone section of law (perhaps a new Section 4-408) with provisions designed to effect that goal with no potential for interference with the current law.
Because it was introduced after the bill introduction deadline, Senator Miller’s bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee, which will determine if the proposal will be assigned to a standing committee.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.