The Empty Transportation Plan

Two weeks ago, Red Maryland brought you an article that exposed problems with a bill that would strip the Governor’s ability to make reasonable transportation decisions. While every other news outlet ignored that the number one concern over the bill was how it would damage safety projects, Red Maryland did not.

HB 1013 is currently in the State Senate, but it is not the same bill that passed in the House of Delegates. Instead, the Democratic leadership in the Senate specifically changed the bill to exempt “safety related projects that do not increase highway or transit capacity.”

This is a step in the right direction, and we applaud the State Senate for listening to our concerns.

No other media outlet brings you an honest assessment of Maryland legislative proposals, and we are proud to serve the citizens of Maryland. This is why journalism exists. We are the watch dogs that point out problems with proposals to ensure that they are properly vetted.

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Although we are concerned that some safety projects must “increase capacity” due to mitigating problems (adding turn lanes to ensure a safer flow of traffic), we can only assume that the potential for public outcry would prevent any legislators from attacking such projects.

This is a major victory for Marylanders and for those who want legislators to do their job. The State Senate has corrected the mistake that the Democratic leadership in the House of Delegates refused to admit existed. The delegates repeatedly asserted false claims to the point of embarrassment, but their attempt to distort the truth did not past muster.

However, there is still the problem with the bill itself. Len Lazarick at Maryland Reporter wrote:

Republicans have maintained that the bill places a heavy thumb on the scale for mass transit, and that all the money would wind up going to Montgomery County. But those are political talking points that don’t hold up as the bill stands now.

What’s more, this scoring system is on top of a very elaborate system for justifying transportation projects already in place in Maryland law. That elaborate process measures traffic, congestion, population trends, economic goals, smart growth and local priorities, with public meetings and reports at the end. But the process is not considered very accessible or open. How things get prioritized is not clear.

If that is true, what is the point of the bill? If the scoring system can be radically redefined at the whim of the executive branch, why even include a scoring system? If there are no teeth to uphold any of the requirements, then the legislation is meaningless.

Let us assume that Len is correct and that the bill has no actual standards. What then is the motivation for passing such a bill that will do nothing? Is it simply to say, “We don’t like you, but we are unwilling to do something about it?”

Either the bill usurps the authority of the executive branch and it is a bad bill, or it does nothing at all and has no reason to pass. The Governor should veto this legislation regardless of the answer, and he should wield the veto power to protect Maryland from such legislative abuses as discussed here.

The media is supposed to ask these questions to hold our elected officials accountable. We will continue to do this job while others refuse.

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