Hogan criticizes O'Malley for 'last-minute' actions

Larry Hogan says Governor O'Malley is trying to "sneak things in at the end" with 32 proposed regulations.

Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan criticized Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday for proposing new rules and regulations in the final weeks of his administration, and said he would review and possibly try to reverse them.

In a news conference called to announce new members of his transition team — including prominent Democrats — Hogan complained that O'Malley had proposed 32 new regulations since Election Day. He said he would look at every one of them after he takes office Jan. 21.

"I don't really believe in making all of these last-minute, midnight decisions and trying to sneak things in at the end," Hogan said. It "is not the way I'd conduct myself on leaving office."

The best known of the regulations is a set of rules on what farmers must do to prevent the runoff of the pollutant phosphorus from their fields — an action Hogan has opposed. But Hogan's transition team provided a list of 31 other rules on such wide-ranging concerns as child and family day care and fisheries. Two new rules would increase the fees paid by cosmetologists and barbers to take their licensing tests.

The proposed phosphorus regulations face fierce opposition from farmers, especially on the Eastern Shore, who are concerned about restrictions on placing the animal waste they use as fertilizer on their fields.

O'Malley, supported by environmentalists concerned that phosphorus is helping to cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay, is pressing to adopt the regulations before Hogan takes office.

Hogan did not specifically address the phosphorus rules Tuesday, but he said recently that the rules would "basically decimate an entire way of life on the Shore."

Hogan was asked about a land deal in which the state bought a Kent County farm for $2.8 million and planned to lease it to and Eastern Shore nonprofit run by a Democratic donor for $1 a year.

The Board of Public Works approved the purchase of the 255-acre Wick Farm under Program Open Space this month but withdrew the lease proposal, saying it would conduct a bidding process for the property while still restricting it to nonprofit use.

The incoming governor said that process should not go forward.

"It was a bad idea. It won't happen if I'm governor. They shouldn't be trying to sneak it in the back door on the way out," Hogan said.

A spokeswoman for O'Malley rejected Hogan's criticism.

"Governor O'Malley continues to focus his energy on achieving the administration's 16 strategic goals — goals that have remained constant since 2007: To ensure the health of our loved ones; to expand opportunity and improve education for more people rather than fewer; to restore the bay and protect the environment; and to ensure the safety and security of Maryland families," spokeswoman Nina Smith said. "He will continue that work until the next governor takes office."

Beyond Hogan's criticism of O'Malley's recent actions, he expressed satisfaction with the way the outgoing administration is treating his transition team.

"For the most part, we've had real cooperativeness," he said. "What we've found across the board is professionalism."

Hogan said the transition is progressing more quickly than he expected. He said that closing the budget's revenue gap — estimated at $900 million over two years — continues to be his top priority.

"It's much deeper and much worse than anyone ever expected," he said.

During the news conference, as during the campaign, Hogan refused to be drawn into social issues.

Asked whether his administration would get involved in a legal effort by a coalition of gun owners and gun-rights groups to invalidate Maryland's 2012 gun control law —21 states have filed briefs with the court supporting the challenge — Hogan said he would leave it to the court to decide.

"We're not going to change any of the gun laws in Maryland," he said. "We're going to implement the laws that are on the books."

Hogan introduced 20 new members of his transition team, including two women long prominent in Maryland Republican circles and two prominent Democratic former elected officials.

Former state House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey and former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley — rivals in the 1994 Republican gubernatorial primary —former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006 before dropping out, and Democratic former Baltimore County Councilman Joe Bartenfelder all joined Hogan's team.

Also on the team is one of Hogan's former opponents in the Republican primary this year, Harford County Executive David R. Craig, along with Craig's running mate, outgoing Del. Jeannie Haddaway of the Middle Shore.

The new team members include business executives, lawmakers and veterans of the last Republican administrations in Annapolis and Washington.

Two new members, Diane Baker and Ande Fulton Rhodes, were subjects, like Hogan, of a General Assembly investigation of political appointments under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Baker was Hogan's deputy in Ehrlich's appointments office. Rhodes was state personnel director. Both testified about the administration's firings of Democrats in midlevel state jobs. Hogan says the investigation was a witch hunt and that the Ehrlich administration did nothing wrong.

Hogan said he will round out his team at another news conference that could be held as soon as Monday. The group started with such members as former state senator and Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall and former state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick. Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford and former Cabinet secretary James Brady are heading up the transition.

Some of the team members may be in line for jobs in the Hogan administration. Others don't expect to stay after the transition.

Duncan said he will keep his current job with Leadership Greater Washington. Sauerbrey, who was an assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said she isn't looking for a position in the administration. But Craig, who is leaving office in Bel Air, said he'll do whatever Hogan wants him to do.

Stealing the show at Tuesday's news conference was Bentley, the 90-year-old known for her relentless promotion of the port of Baltimore, which is named for her.

Hogan said Bentley, a Craig supporter who was critical of Hogan during the primary, would advise him on the port and other matters.

"Helen is not short of opinions, and she's a strong woman who's done a tremendous amount for the state of Maryland and we're happy to have her," Hogan said.

"And she's always right," Bentley said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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