Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is facing pressure to sign bills that would create a state board to monitor drug prices and to increase the state’s requirements for using renewable energy.
Hogan, a Republican, has already signed 552 bills and resolutions that were passed by state lawmakers, and has about two more weeks to decide the fate of more than 300 more pieces of legislation.
Hogan has three options on bills: veto them, sign them into law or allow them to become law without his signature.
Health advocacy groups have been pressing Hogan to approve a bill that would create a state Prescription Drug Affordability Board. They were buoyed by comments Hogan made at a political event in New Hampshire last month when he was asked about high drug prices.
“We just passed a bill in our legislature to try to address this issue,” Hogan said. “There’s no question it has to be addressed.”
Starting in 2022, the state drug board would review the prices for certain prescription drugs that are paid for by insurance plans for local and state government workers, and set an upper payment limit.
The drug board would be allowed to review drugs that: are new brand-name drugs that cost at least $30,000 per year, existing brand-name drugs with price increases of at least $3,000 per year, existing generic drugs with price increases of at least 200% per year and any drug that creates “affordability challenges.”
The drug board would also be charged with making a recommendation of whether the reviews should apply to all purchases of prescription drugs.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act, meanwhile, would increase the requirement for how much of the electricity sold in the state must come from renewable sources such as wind farms and solar panels.
The new goal would be 50% by 2030, up from the current goal of 25% by 2020. Proponents of the bill say it will help combat climate change while ensuring the viability of clean energy industries, especially the solar industry, by creating demand.
But the bill is controversial because it still allows the burning of trash to count as a form of renewable energy that is eligible for government subsidies. Trash incineration is a major source of air pollution, so some environmentalists believe it shouldn’t count as “clean” energy.
A Wheelabrator Baltimore incinerator is Baltimore City’s largest single source of industrial air pollution and has been targeted by stringent air pollution standards passed by the Baltimore City Council. The owners of Wheelabrator and a medical waste incinerator have sued in an attempt to block those rules.
Hogan has not tipped his hand whether he will sign the renewable energy bill.
“Governor Hogan is proud of Maryland’s commitment to environmental stewardship, and he is giving this legislation the thoughtful consideration it deserves,” said Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci.
The last time that lawmakers passed a bill increasing the renewable energy requirements, in 2016, Hogan vetoed the bill, deriding it as a “sunshine and wind tax” because it would add costs to consumers’ electric bills.
This year’s bill, if it becomes law, could lead the average residential customer to pay about $1.50 extra on their electricity bill each month, according to a nonpartisan analysis from the state Department of Legislative Services.
Other bills awaiting a decision from Hogan include one that would ban polystyrene food containers starting in 2020 and another that would dissolve the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board. Handgun owners who want to contest decisions on permits to carry their guns would instead file their appeals with an administrative law judge.
Hogan has until May 25 to make decisions on these and other pending bills.
Hogan has a final bill signing ceremony scheduled for May 23.