By Barry Rascovar
On April Fool’s Day, Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr. played a whopper of a prank on the Maryland General Assembly: He vetoed a bill that brings public accountability and transparency to an important state government decision-making process.
Surely, Hogan wasn’t serious about this veto. Right?
After all, Republican legislatures in Virginia and North Carolina have passed similar “openness in government” laws.
Besides, the Maryland bill he vetoed doesn’t weaken Hogan’s power to do as he pleases in selecting transportation projects.
It’s a “feel good” bill that merely requires that Hogan’s team develop a ranking system for transportation projects and then explain if programs low on the list are given priority status in his budget.
Transparency with no enforcement
Is Hogan against transparency in government? Does he really want to run a more secretive administration?
Of course not.
Is Hogan serious about terming this toothless bill “the worst kind of policy making”?
Is he sincere when he says this flimsy bill will block needed road and bridge projects?
No, of course not.
It’s got to be an April Fool’s joke.
The bill passed by the legislature is decades overdue. Had such transparency in road projects been in place, the corruption scandals involving Spiro Agnew, Dale Anderson and Joe Alton (former county executives) might never have happened.
Shining a light on government decision-making helps avoid shadowy actions by the governor’s staff that are based on political favoritism or cronyism. The public deserves to know how important choices are made. That builds trust in Maryland’s elected leaders.
Hogan’s comments are so far afield from the facts that it’s all got to be a gigantic charade.
Indeed, Hogan’s rantings about this unenforceable transportation transparency bill are so extreme that he sounds almost Trumpian.
Let’s examine some of his claims.
Does this bill strip power from the governor? No.
Does this bill give more power to the legislature? No.
Does this bill block the governor from choosing any road or bridge project he wants? No.
Does this bill harm any Marylanders? No.
Does this bill harm business development? No.
Does this bill infringe on the governor’s right to identify local road projects he wants to fund? Absolutely not.
So why is Hogan in such a lather? Why did he veto a bill that will be overridden promptly by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly?
Partisan, Republican politics, pure and simple.
Hogan is using this bill as a device to energize his followers and true-believers. It is part of Hogan’s ideological drive to portray himself and his supporters as victims of those evil Democrats who control the legislature.
He’s arguing on the basis of emotion, not facts. And he’s sounding distressingly like Donald Trump.
Hogan is correct that Democratic lawmakers are becoming more and more distrustful of his actions, such as cancelling the federally-approved Red Line transit route, the terrible appointments he made to the Baltimore City liquor board, the questionable appointments he made to the state’s handgun control board, the suspect actions of his nominee to the Public Service Commission, and his de-emphasis of mass transit in his budget in favor of road projects in Republican counties.
The transportation transparency bill stems from that distrust. If Hogan continues along this path, distrust of Hogan could grow rapidly, with many more objectionable bills reaching his desk.
Hogan knows he’s going to lose this fight with the legislature. He also knows his powers remain fully intact. It’s all for show – and for political gain.
Barry Rascovar’s blog is politicalmaryland.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org