With 2016 behind us, I hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This past year has been a tumultuous one in a lot of ways, from an unprecedentedly unusual election season to greater terrorism around the globe and unrest here at home. At the same time, there is much to be thankful for and positive about as we turn the page and head into 2017.
Serving as your State Senator, it's almost time to return to Annapolis for our 90-day General Assembly session. As always, there are a lot of challenges that our state faces and my goal is to continue being a voice for common sense, fiscally conservative policies. This promises to be a particularly contentious year as the Democrat majority will be trying to score political points on Gov. Larry Hogan leading into an election year next year (yes, another election is around the corner, closer than you probably want to believe).
I'll be rolling out my specific legislative priorities for 2017 in the near future. However, a top priority of mine and our Carroll Delegation will be working with Gov. Hogan to fully repeal the unnecessary and partisan transportation scoring legislation passed in 2016. This law is being called the "Road Kill Bill," because it creates a scoring process that takes authority for transportation prioritization away from the governor and county governments. Using a complex algorithm, this scoring process would likely redistribute funding for major road construction projects to just four jurisdictions and put primary emphasis on mass transit systems. This could have the effective of killing hundreds of projects across the entire state, including the Md. 32 dualization process that is so vital to Carroll County's future economic growth, not to mention quality of life.
In the 2016 session, I opposed this legislation. When it passed, I strongly supported and voted to uphold Gov. Hogan's veto but it was overridden by one vote in the Senate. It was clear that this legislation was nothing more than a power grab to limit the authority of the governor and sap local control. This is happening because Gov. Hogan believes in using our gas tax dollars to actually fund roads and bridges instead of more lightly used mass transit systems that have to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers. The Annapolis establishment doesn't like that. How else can you justify replacing a system that has been in place for nearly four decades, throughout the terms of several governors — all Democrats except for Bob Ehrlich's four-year term — with nary a complaint until now?
Proponents of this legislation will try to convince us that it is necessary in the name of "transparency." Funny, the bill had very little public scrutiny in the General Assembly committee process and was rammed through very quickly — which was part of the reason that Sen. Bates, Hough, and I all worked to filibuster the bill and spotlight its flaws — unsuccessfully as it turned out.
I warned on the Senate floor that this would endanger long-overdue road projects and weight the scales toward more mass transit spending, which only 9 percent of Marylanders use. Unfortunately, that warning turned out to be correct. So in this coming session, I will work with Gov. Hogan, as well as any willing legislators in either party to repeal this ill-conceived law so that transportation funding can continue to be dispersed fairly across the state and spent primarily on the form of travel that over 90 percent of Marylanders actually use — roads.
Of course I would love to hear from you anytime on issues of concern. Please feel free to contact me at Justin.Ready@senate.state.md.us or call my office at 410-841-3683.
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Justin Ready is a Republican state senator representing District 5.