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Hogan blasts Miller in dispute over health secretary

Hogan blasts Miller in dispute over health secretary
Gov. Larry Hogan is greeted by Jay Tawes, the grandson of Gov. J. Millard Tawes, at the 41st annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun)

Gov. Larry Hogan sharply criticized state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller on Wednesday for what he called unethical behavior amid a dispute over open-heart surgery programs and the nominee for state health secretary.

Echoing complaints his staff made last week, Hogan accused Miller of demanding that the administration block a state commission's decision to allow open-heart surgery at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Miller and others are concerned that the open-heart program would compete with a similar program at a planned teaching hospital in Prince George's County.

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The Republican governor, speaking at the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield, said Miller, a Democrat, held up a state Senate confirmation vote for Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader during the General Assembly session that ended in April.

"Through the entire session, almost every conversation I had with him, he threatened to hold up Dennis Schrader's nomination to be health secretary, unless and until we would go back and reverse a decision that was made on the open-heart surgery," Hogan said in an interview.

Hogan said he refused to intervene in the decision, which was made by the independent Maryland Health Care Commission.

"I told him every single time that would be against the law and improper and unethical," Hogan said.

Miller, who represents parts of Prince George's and Calvert counties, responded with a statement disputing the governor's account.

"That is an outright lie and it is truly disappointing the governor is now bringing alternative facts to try to explain his unwillingness to abide by the Constitution and laws of this state," Miller said. "I am on record stating I would support Mr. Schrader even though many thought he was a political hack who was unqualified for the position at a time when we could be facing a national health care crisis."

Hogan withdrew Schrader's nomination in the waning days of this year's legislative session. He then reappointed Schrader, as well as Wendi Peters, his nominee for planning secretary, who also did not win Senate approval.

State lawmakers put a provision in the budget bill stating appointees required to have Senate consent that did not gain it — effectively, Schrader and Peters — could not be paid. Since the new budget year began July 1, neither Schrader nor Peters has been paid. Hogan maintains the pair are lawfully in their jobs and should be paid. State Treasurer Nancy Kopp has refused to sign their paychecks.

Hogan said he's considering legal action to settle the matter, but declined on Wednesday to offer any specifics.

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