ANNAPOLIS- Efforts to override the veto of a bill that would establish a commission to study transportation needs in rapidly-growing Southern Maryland have stalled in the House of Delegates after easily moving through the state Senate.
Delegates from Southern Maryland are working with transportation officials and each other to determine whether an override of the veto will be necessary after all.
The bill would create a commission, which would include members of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, to review transportation problems not only in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties but in southern areas of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties as well.
Sen. Roy P. Dyson, Democrat from Southern Maryland, who sponsored the bill along with two other Democratic senators from the region, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and Thomas M. Middleton, said the region’s traffic issues cross borders into neighboring counties.
“Clearly, some of our problems, in fact many of our problems, are over the lines in Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County,” Dyson said. “They’ve got to be a part of the mix.”
On Thursday, the Senate voted 33-14 to overturn the veto by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The House is not expected to take up the bill until Tuesday, and even then a vote will likely be postponed again until the region’s delegates are able to reach a consensus on the best way to handle the study of the traffic problems.
Del. John L. Bohanan, D-St. Mary’s, said the state department of transportation offered the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland a $100,000 grant to begin to look at the issue and that some delegates feel like that is enough.
“My own perspective is that the secretary indicated that it would cost about seven hundred and some thousand last year,” he said. “[The grant is] a good down-payment and an acknowledgement that we do need to look at transportation issues for the region.”
Del. Sue Kullen, D-Calvert, said the region’s delegates are looking for answers to certain questions before they will be able to vote on the override in the House. She said the Tri-County Council’s grant is an issue that has to be worked out because the initial transportation study was intended for five counties and not three.
“If we can get the Tri County Council to consider that piece of it with the grant money that we have, that’s a reasonable compromise,” she said. “But if folks feel strongly that we can’t include those counties and they [delegates] feel strongly that that is needed to make sure this is comprehensive, we may vote to overturn the veto.”
When asked whether he felt an override of the veto would still be necessary, Dyson replied: “Oh, yeah.”
During debate in the Senate, Middleton said cooperation from Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties is necessary to solve the region’s traffic problems.
He said passage of the bill would give Ehrlich the ability to enlist cooperation from the adjacent counties, which Middleton said is needed to properly accommodate the “fastest growing region in the state.”
Ehrlich’s veto message cited the Maryland Department of Transportation’s opposition to the bill and said the proposed commission would duplicate efforts by other transportation planning studies.
Dyson said he believes the governor based his decision to veto the bill on the existence of previous studies, but those findings “just don’t work anymore. “We’ve had phenomenal growth since those studies last were done. Phenomenal,” he said. “This increases our transportation problem.”