Hogan Pledges to Reverse Assembly Action on School Construction Funding
By Bruce DePuyt
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said Monday the bill stripping the Board of Public Works of its role in school construction funding is the “biggest disappointment” of the just-concluded 2018 session, and he vowed to “repeal” the legislature’s action in a second term.
Talking to reporters outside Government House hours before the General Assembly adjourned for the year, Hogan said the session was, on balance, a great success.
“A lot of you here… said you’ll never get anything done in an election year — that all we’re going to do is fight and call people names — and there was almost none of that,” Hogan said. “I want to thank the presiding officers and the legislators on both sides of the aisle, in both houses, for really working hard over the past 90 days and for accomplishing a lot for the people of Maryland.”
Hogan pointed to the balanced budget, tax relief, Metro funding, the Amazon incentive package and safety legislation as being among the session’s highlights.
Last week the legislature overrode with ease Hogan’s veto of a measure stripping the Board of Public Works — made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer — from its decades-old role in hearing school construction appeals.
“It was a really bad decision, but we’re going to repeal that next year,” said Hogan, who will face voters in November. “People aren’t going to stand for this. You can’t take away authority and accountability. It was a stupid thing to do and it was the biggest mistake of the session, but we’re going to fix it.”
Backers of the legislation have said the new system will modernize the process for funding school projects and that the new nine-member Interagency Committee will provide more subject-matter expertise and be less swayed by politics.
Hogan was interrupted during his news conference by a union leader who was standing within earshot, Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3, who took issue with the governor’s comments about Sunday’s uprising at the Victor Cullen Center, the state-run youth detention center in Sabillasville.
“I can answer that —,” Moran said, as Hogan began to answer a reporter’s question about staffing levels at the facility.
“Yo, Pat, stop,” said Douglass V. Mayer, Hogan’s communications director.
“We’ve already heard from you,” Hogan said to Moran. “There are no [staffing] shortages. It was fully —
“Do not interrupt the governor, Pat,” Mayer called out.
Hogan resumed: “There was no shortage. It was completely fully staffed. These are the most violent offenders we have in our juvenile justice system. It was a terrible incident. Eight of them attacked a couple of very dedicated hard-working, brave public employees. Luckily they’re all out of the hospital and doing pretty well.”
Moran took issue that all of that, telling reporters later that inadequate staffing contributed to the melee.
The governor is “responsible for making sure that people go to work and come out of the job in one piece,” Moran said. “We had eight youth that took over the Victor Cullen Center. They assaulted 11 staff, including the superintendent. One of the staff has a broken jaw. He’s getting a metal plate right now, as we speak.”
Of the governor’s claim that the injured personnel were “out of the hospital and doing pretty well,” Moran said: “They’re not all out of the hospital. The governor is not being forthright about that.”
Moran called Hogan’s comment “insulting to the men and women that put their life on the line.”
He claimed the state Department of Corrections is down 1,000 officers and that the Department of Juvenile Services is down 100, forcing employees to work double shifts – numbers Mayer disputed.
“He’s a national political operative who has reasons to insinuate things are different,” he said. “The situation at Victor Cullen was handled. It was handled immediately and appropriately. But that doesn’t mean that there was a staffing problem.”
“Could there always be more? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t enough on staff at that time.”
At a second news conference in the State House lobby shortly after midnight Tuesday, minutes after both legislative chambers adjourned, Hogan said that if voters want to continue to make progress, they’ll give him a second term. If they want to go backward, he suggested, they’ll vote for someone else.