Gov. Larry Hogan boasted to a supportive business group Tuesday that his new Republican administration has already achieved more on protecting the Chesapeake Bay than former Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Speaking to the annual luncheon of Maryland Business for Responsive Government, Hogan touted his administration's promulgation of regulations to curb the runoff of polluting phosphorus into the bay. Last week he announced he would put into effect a revision of rules developed by O'Malley but opposed by farm interests.
The revised rules represented a compromise between environmental and agricultural interests.
"In less than 60 days, we accomplished what the O'Malley administration had failed to do in eight years," he told an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred that jammed a hotel ballroom near Arundel Mills.
The complicated and detailed rules to control phosphorus runoff – largely the result of the use of chicken manure as fertilizer on Eastern Shore farm fields – took more than three years to draft under the O'Malley administration.
O'Malley formally proposed rules in January but was unable to finalize them before leaving office. Hogan withdrew them and proposed a version more palatable to farm interests, but after negotiations with environmentalists and General Assembly leaders he reached a compromise that has won wide acceptance.
William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, declined to be drawn into any comparison of the accomplishments of the two governors. However, he said the O'Malley and Hogan versions of the rules were "actually very similar."
Baker said Hogan's version was stronger in a provision that would curb the use of manure on the most heavily phosphorus-saturated fields as early as June. However, he said the Hogan version would give other farmers more time to comply.
Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said she has been pleasantly surprised at Hogan's openness on environmental issues but called it "disingenuous" to say he's been more successful than his predecessor.
"Governor O'Malley did a lot in his eight years so I don't think the comparison has been well-founded," Raettig.
In his remarks, Hogan also claimed that his administration was already showing progress in changing the culture of state government to one more responsive to customers.
"We're letting every single employee of state government know that they work for you," he said. "It's only been 60 days but I'm very pleased at what a transformation my team has already begun to make."
The group to which Hogan spoke represents conservative opinion within the state business community and frequently takes positions to the right of groups such as the Greater Baltimore Committee. The committee is known for its annual rankings of lawmakers' records -- in which most Republicans fare well and most Democrats poorly.