By Pat Reber

The Maryland House of Delegates on Monday, March 18 passed a bill intended to slow down or even stall the governor’s plan to add up to four privately-built toll lanes to I-270 and the Beltway.

Now it’s up to the Senate to see if the bill, HB1091, makes it out of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee by March 29, in order to be part of the General Assembly’s end-of-session budget, according to the Don’t Widen 270 group that opposes the governor’s plan.

Pete Altman, who chairs the group, indicated that there could be a hitch, because Germantown’s Nancy King, who chairs the important committee, has scheduled a hearing on the bill for April 3 – too late “for it to be viable this legislative session.” He called on supporters who live in her district (District 39 – Germantown, Montgomery Village) to contact her office about moving up the committee’s consideration.

HB1091 would require the state to thoroughly review the environmental impacts of major transportation projects before it approves a “public-private partnership” project that exceeds $500 million, according to District 17 Delegate Kumar Barve. The estimated cost of Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed project is $9 billion dollars, according to a briefing at the Montgomery County Council this past week.

“The bill [wouldn’t] stop the project outright, or give our County veto privileges, but it does set a higher standard for such projects in general and in our case, it will create a delay which we badly need in order to keep fighting,” Altman wrote to his supporters.

According to the Maryland Sierra Club, the bill would require completion of a federal environmental impact study before the state signs a contract; would require an independent credit audit of the financial impacts of the proposal; and would extend the period for legislative leadership to review proposals.

“This is fantastic news for our environment and our health,” said Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club, in a statement on the group’s website. “We shouldn’t be rushing into plans … without understanding how these plans would impact our air, water and climate for generations.”

The Maryland Sierra Club is also working to pass HB1091 in the Senate.

If HB1091 is adopted as part of the state budget, Governor Larry Hogan could not stop it. That’s because the budget is the one piece of legislation that cannot be stopped by a governor’s veto.