New public-private partnership bill for infrastructure projects signed into law

By Becca Heller

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, with Gov. Martin O'Malley

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, with Gov. Martin O’Malley

A House bill refining guidelines for public-private partnerships (P3s) was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley Tuesday after finally  passing the House and Senate in the closing days of the session.

The idea is to leverage private financing and construction contracting to build infrastructure projects the state wants more efficiently without adding to bond debt.

The law, HB560, tweaks the current public-private partnership process. It gives the Board of Public Works a more prominent role and seeks to encourage innovation by providing room for businesses to pitch ideas for projects without following the usual procurement procedure.

Bill drew criticism

HB 560 drew criticism from legislators who feared that the new bill stripped protections from the process that would allow more room for favoritism in government procurements.

“In the past we’ve made great strides…to develop fairness and integrity in the procurement process,” said Del. Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, during a debate on the House floor. “What’s wrong with the P3 bill is that it eliminates all of these protections.”

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who led the O’Malley administration’s effort to pass the bill, dismissed  these criticisms. He told reporters Monday that the new process is focused on expanding accountability and improving the relationships between the private sector and the Board of Public Works, the three-member board that includes the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer.

“If you can have a process that is transparent and accountable, then you’re going to reduce litigation,” Brown said. He was referring to a lawsuit that derailed a major project in Baltimore called State Center that had private developers replacing aging state office buildings in exchange for mixed-use buildings on state-owned land.

Brown explained that the new bill will bring the Board of Public Works to the forefront, allowing more communication and a clear delineation of what projects are best for the public.

“We now have the Board of Public Works right there up front taking a part in the decisions as to who will be designated as a P3,” said Brown, who occasionally chairs the board when O’Malley can’t. “We think that that’s going to instill a lot more confidence — both in terms of the legislature and the private sector.”

The Greater Baltimore Committee made the bill a top priority. In its legislative wrap-up, the GBC said “the law is expected to be a key option for the state to leverage private-sector funding for transportation assets and other infrastructure projects.”

“Under P3 agreements,” GBC explained, “a private entity performs functions normally undertaken by the government, but the state agency remains ultimately accountable for the public infrastructure asset and its public function.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. cwals99

    What Maryland is doing is setting the stage for corporate welfare…..where private business sheds all operational costs and infrastructure costs to the public with the result of huge profit gains. That is all this is about. The Massachusetts Big Dig a few decades ago was the first to use these public private partnerships and the amount of fraud and corruption….mismanagement and lack of public oversight was tremendous. The public lost billions of dollars to malfeasance.

    Maryland already has the process of fraud and corruption down pat and Anthony Brown and other candidates running for governor supporting O’Malley in this are saying to the citizens of Maryland…..WE DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU THINK….WE ARE GOING TO SEND ALL THE PUBLIC MONEY POSSIBLE TO THE SAME FEW CORPORATE ENTITIES FOR WHOM WE WORK!!

    This is not a democratic policy…..Texas is ground zero for this policy. It is simply a movement by the rich to capture both political parties so that policies like this move all money to them. Since the republican party has always been the party of the rich and corporations they are doing what they always have. The difference comes with the democratic pols who are running campaigns that say one thing and then tossing their constituents aside. We have to take back the democratic party so that labor and justice fight for public interest. JUST RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE AGAINST THESE THIRD WAY CORPORATE DEMOCRATS TO TAKE BACK THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY!!

  2. Soon to be ex resident

    Dear Governor O’Malley,

    thankyou for making our lives hell. I hope you enjoy losing 2 taxpayers. For the ignorant idiocy you created. We finally sold our home and leaving at the end of May. I hope all the people you fooled enjoy the miserable lives they voted for. Please enjoy the death of Maryland you Pol Pot lover. Please don’t come to Texas we’ll have protest signs waiting for you titled forced out of Maryland due to bad policies.


    Soon to be ex resident

  3. ConcernedMarylander

    I find this quite disturbing. This is being touted as great for Maryland’s infrastructure, but what was the gas tax increase for? I fear this is a slippery slope for the eventual privatization of state government services (particularly transit and highways), which does not save taxpayer money regardless of the spin.

  4. Dale McNamee

    Integrity in the process ? No, I see nothing but corrupt cronyism in this as well as another cash grab from the taxpayers ( “subjects” ) and the roads will still not be as good…