ANNAPOLIS – Eastern Shore delegates voiced agreement, seasoned with concern, for the proposals Gov. Parris N. Glendening presented Thursday in his first State of the State address.
“I was pleased with his tone. I think it was positive and consistent. He is addressing the areas we need to look at,” Del. Norman Conway, D-Wicomico, said of the speech, which was delivered to a joint session of the Senate and House of Delegates.
Glendening called for balancing economic development and environmental protection, while repeating his pledge to increase funding for schools and reform public safety and human services.
He also announced that he wants legislation to increase the speed limit on interstate highways in rural areas to 65 miles per hour.
Conway and other shore lawmakers agreed with the governor’s plan to eliminate duplication of regulatory efforts between the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environment.
“People find out, in getting permits, that they often face red tape. There are few people on the Eastern Shore who haven’t been tangled in that process,” Conway said.
But Del. Bennett Bozman, D-Worcester, said he was surprised by Glendening’s plan. He expected the agencies to be consolidated into one.
“I want to know more about it,” Bozman said. “His plans aren’t very clear right now.”
In the area of human services, Glendening said he is submitting a child support bill to “place more responsibility on parents, specifically finding missing parents and deadbeat parents.”
For safer communities, Glendening said he wants to streamline the death penalty process. Those sentenced to death “will be held responsible and they will be executed,” he said.
Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, called the governor’s promise a “tremendous step in the right direction.”
While some lawmakers applauded Glendening’s assertion that the state could adopt stricter environmental regulations than those mandated by the federal government, Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, said he was “very disappointed” to hear it.
“The federal regulations seem severe enough,” Stoltzfus said, adding that more stringent regulations would disadvantage the state in the business sector.
While he said he agrees with Glendening’s overall pro- business stance, Stoltzfus said favoring stronger regulations seems to argue against business growth.
Glendening offered specific relief for business with his support of a proposal to repeal the snack tax. Colburn said the tax is particularly detrimental for Eastern Shore businesses because there is no sales tax in neighboring Delaware.
Glendening’s proposal to streamline the process for getting wetland permits will also help business, lawmakers said. His plan would remove the U.S. Corps of Engineers from the review. The permits are required by anyone who wants to develop land including a non-tidal wetland. Reviews currently take as long as 18 months.
Many of Glendening’s proposals were aimed at economic development, including his creation of a business-focused Department of Business and Economic Development. The governor said the new agency would have “a single mission, bringing jobs to Maryland and retaining the jobs that are here.”
Among the new department’s tasks: streamlining regulations, identifying business taxes to reduce or eliminate and directing growth in a manner that protects both natural resources and business.
Glendening also called for more private sector influence in economic development.
“Would you rather have a state bureaucrat talk to you about moving your business to Maryland, or would you rather have a CEO talking to another CEO?” he asked.
He proposed creating a Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to handle the employment and training functions now in the hands of 1,200 to 1,400 Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED) employees. The new department would incorporate the old Department of Licensing and Regulation. DEED, meanwhile, would be abolished, given that the rest of its responsibilities would be taken up by the new Department of Business and Economic Development. -30-