The Maryland Senate approved a bill Tuesday preserving a commission on climate change on a party-line vote after a sharp debate.
The 32-14 vote, with all of the chamber's Republicans opposed, sent to the House a bill that perpetuates a commission that former Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley created by executive order in 2007. In effect, the bill would say that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan may not abolish the panel, which is part of the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Sen. Andrew A. Serafini, a Western Maryland Republican, said he objects to language in the bill that treats human-driven climate change as an established fact. He said commission members should keep an open mind on the question.
"Science is not settled. There are good and smart people on both sides," he said.
But supporters said the purpose of the commission isn't for its members to debate the existence on human-influenced climate change but to study and propose ways to adapt to it and mitigate its effects.
"It's not a study commission. It's an action commission," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat.
While Republican senators fought the bill, Hogan told a news conference later Tuesday that he had no objections to the bill and that he agrees climate change is a problem.
"We're fine with continuing the commission," Hogan said.
The bill passed after a plea from Sen. James N. Mathias Jr. of the Lower Shore, one of the Senate's most conservative Democrats, who pointed to the effect rising sea levels are having on the counties he represents. He said Somerset County alone is losing 106 acres a year to shoreline erosion.
"These are facts and I think this commission is vital," he said. "We don't need to be debating the existence of climate change any more."