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House passes 'completely gutted' version of Hogan's fee cut bill

When Gov. Larry Hogan's bill cutting scores of fees raised by his predecessor was introduced, Republican members of the House of Delegates saw it as a thing of beauty.

Fishing license fees, wetlands permit fees, scale registration fees, handgun permit application fees -- the Republican governor's bill cut a swath through them to the tune of $16 million in the first year alone.

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On Monday night, most Republican lawmakers held their noses and voted for what remained after the Democrats in charge "completely gutted" Hogan's bill and turned it into a measure reducing the cost of birth and death certificates.

"I had the chance to vote for Beyonce, but I'm settling for Phyllis Diller," lamented Del. Haven Shoemaker, a Carroll County Republican who charged that Democrats had turned the legislation into "the red-headed stepchild of the original bill."

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Shoemaker, like most of his Republican colleagues, joined a solid bloc of Democrats in voting 135-2 against a measure that would still save some Marylanders money. Only Dels. Pat McDonough and Richard Impallaria, Republicans representing Baltimore and Harford counties, put up no votes.

The measure cuts the cost of a death certificate or a birth certificate from $24 to $10. Even there the Democrats tinkered with Hogan's work. The governor proposed $12.

Hogan rolled out his plan to cut fees as part of a larger tax reduction package in January. Administration officials said they were trying to reduce the burden on hard-working Marylanders but Democrats dismissed the proposal as political grandstanding. They complained that while Hogan went back eight years to roll back fee increases passed under Gov. Martin O'Malley, he didn't go back farther and review those raised by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The stripped-down fee reduction measure now goes to the Senate.

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