House Appropriations Committee Chairman Norm Conway drove up from Salisbury on Wednesday to advocate for Board of Public Works approval of a firehouse project in his lower Eastern Shore district.

While the Democrat was in Annapolis, though, Conway took the opportunity to score a few points for the House on bond bills, the legislative set-asides for nonprofits that became a bone of contention during budget negotiations this year.

The Senate voted to cut bond bills for the next two years, while the House fought to maintain them and ultimately won the battle.

But if the Senate still targets the measures, which will amount to $15 million this coming fiscal year, Conway’s ready to defend them. The bond bills are the closest thing Maryland has to congressional earmarks, but they only go to nonprofit organizations and require matching contributions.

“These are small contributions that the state makes for worthy needs that have been identified,” he said.

He was talking specifically about the BPW’s approval of a $250,000 grant for the Parsonburg Volunteer Fire Company to help build a new $2 million facility. The BPW rarely denies such a request.

“We hear a lot about earmarks,” said BPW member and State Treasurer Nancy Kopp. “We hear a lot about pork projects, and I think it’s important to point out that we’re talking about projects like this.”
–Andy Rosen