- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland General Assembly on Friday overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a hotly debated bill that creates a scoring system to prioritize transportation projects.

The Senate voted 29-17 to override the veto - the minimum for the required three-fifths majority. The Senate was one vote short for several minutes, and senators stalled for time explaining their votes until a senator who had left the chamber returned. Sen. Jamie Raskin said he was in a meeting with Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford to discuss redistricting reform, when Sen. Cathy Pugh “burst into the room” and said he was needed in the Senate.

“I do not believe that there was a connection,” said Raskin, D-Montgomery, referring to the timing of the meeting and the override vote. “On the other hand, a lot of people back on the floor seemed to know where I was and think that the governor asked me to come up at this time rather than at another time.”

The House voted to override the transportation measure veto Thursday. Supporters say the bill brings transparency by requiring officials to explain why a lower-scored project is funded over one with a higher score.

“I believe it’s something that will strengthen Maryland’s infrastructure and transportation system for the years ahead - a fair and objective means of scoring projects and demonstrating the value that they have in the state of Maryland is an enormous benefit for our state, and I believe that this bill will create real opportunities for Maryland to have a 21st century transportation system,” Raskin said.

The governor’s office said the bill does nothing to improve the state.

“The General Assembly’s decision to add a thick and nasty layer of bureaucracy to the state’s transportation decisions does nothing to move Maryland forward and only harms local government and hardworking taxpayers,” said Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for the governor. “The only people celebrating this vote are out of touch legislators and the lobbyists who bent their arms.”

Senate Republicans criticized the bill as an erosion of the governor’s powers and an imposition of state government over the local decision-making process.

“It encourages a big bureaucracy to stomp on the local input, and the idea that this is a statistical, scientific endeavor is just not that,” said Sen. Robert Cassilly, R-Harford. “It’s the old adage of lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Democrats who control the General Assembly made the measure a priority this session, after the Republican governor decided last year shortly after the legislative session ended to scrap plans for a light rail project in Baltimore and steer funding to transportation projects throughout the state.

Although the bill won’t prevent the governor from funding a project with a lower score than another, it would require an explanation for the decision.

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