ANNAPOLIS — The state’s fiscal 2017 capital budget — which includes funding for the downtown Frederick hotel and conference center — is among the 22 bills Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday he will allow to become law without his signature.
Republican lawmakers from Frederick County who had opposed public funding for the nearly $70 million project had asked the governor to use the power of line-item veto to remove the funding provision.
It was added to the capital budget last week through three amendments by a 10-member team of budget negotiators.
The first amendment gives the city of Frederick a $1 million grant in 2017 for planning costs associated with the project. The remaining two amendments pre-authorize $7.5 million grants in both 2018 and 2019.
Pre-authorizations are essentially requests to the governor to include money in his proposed capital budget in those years.
The capital budget also extends until 2018 the deadline for the city to collect $250,000 on a planning grant previously awarded in 2012.
End of session nears
This year, the General Assembly sent the governor more than two dozen bills early in session, invoking what is called the “six-day rule.” That rule requires the governor to sign, veto or let the bills take effect within six days.
“As of today, we have dealt with all the early actions of the Legislature,” Hogan said Tuesday.
Three bills were signed into law. Two measures were vetoed. One of those created a scoring system for transportation projects. Another changed the composition of a commission that nominates members of the Anne Arundel County school board.
Hogan will let the remaining 22 bills take effect without any action from his office because “we found nothing in these bills that would do major harm or negatively impact Marylanders.”
The governor used the opportunity to push for legislative action on some of his priorities this session.
“Now that all the so-called drama and controversy is over with, the Legislature should now be able to focus on some important business for the remainder of the session,” Hogan said.
He pointed to a tax relief bill that has passed the Senate and is pending in the House, and two measures he introduced dealing with spending mandates and redistricting.
The redistricting bill, based on the work of a bipartisan panel, would amend the state constitution to establish a commission to create legislative and congressional district boundaries.
“There can be no possible excuse for keeping this bill hidden in a drawer and simply ignoring the will of nearly every person in Maryland,” he said. “There is still plenty of time to get this bill to the floor of each house for an up-or-down vote.”
Six bills addressing reapportionment for congressional districts were filed in Annapolis this year, even as federal lawsuits challenging Maryland’s 2012 maps are pending in federal court. Despite bill hearings early in the session, none of the measures has received a committee vote.
Hotel funding faces
The $1 million in planning funding in the state’s fiscal 2017 capital budget comes with requirements to be met before the money is released, according to the amendment.
No money can be spent until a memorandum of understanding outlining terms for development and financing of the project is signed by the Maryland Stadium Authority, county executive and County Council, Frederick’s mayor and Board of Aldermen, and the private developer of the property, according to the amendment.
The signed agreement must be sent to the General Assembly’s budget committees, which can comment. That money would be available when the requirements are met.
Hogan will decide next year whether to include funding for the project in the 2018 and 2019 operating budgets. Last week, budget secretary David Brinkley said the governor’s office will carefully review the memorandum of understanding while planning next year’s budget.
Inclusion in the state’s capital budget was a workaround for conference center advocates, after a $19.8 million bond bill was stuck in House and Senate committees.
The downtown hotel and conference center is projected to cost about $69.8 million.
About $44 million of that cost will be paid by the hotel’s developer, Plamondon Hospitality Partners. The rest would be a combination of city, county and state funding.
The proposed hotel would be on the property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St., which is currently owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post.