The General Assembly completed the override of another of Governor Robert L. Ehrlich’s vetoes Tuesday, this one on a bill to establish a commission to study Southern Maryland’s transportation needs.

The House of Delegates voted 93-46 to override the governor’s veto. The Senate overrode the veto in the early days of the session.

The bill will create a commission, which will 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.

Tony O’Donnell – The Bay Net photo by Sean Rice 

In what Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-Calvert and St. Mary’s, called a “highly unusual” occurrence, Southern Maryland delegates were split in their decision on whether or not to override the governor’s veto.

“It appears to be, after 13 veto overrides, more piling-on on this governor,” he said, “and I’m asking you not to do that.”

At least part of the reason for the split was disagreement over whether a $100,000 grant that the state’s department of transportation offered the Tri-County Council to look at Southern Maryland transportation issues would be sufficient.

O’Donnell, who is a member of the Tri-County Council, said the grant will enable the council to update the region’s transportation strategy based on previous studies.

But Del. John L. Bohanan, D-St. Mary’s, said the $100,000 was only a starting point.

“In the veto message the governor said [the study] would likely cost $733,000 [and] the secretary of transportation has offered a grant of $100,000,” Bohanan said. “If the true cost is 733, that’s a good down payment. We appreciate that.”

O’Donnell also said the bill, which as written calls for the commission to report its findings by Nov. 1, right before the 18 elected officials on the 21-member commission are up for re-election, was a “political bill.”
When asked what he thought O’Donnell meant by that statement Bohanan said: “I have no idea. It’s political in the sense that it’s on the minds of everyone in our region.”

Bohanan also said since they’re already seven months behind, a new bill would be introduced in the near future to modify the one that was passed on Tuesday.

“We’re going to introduce a bill that would move the deadline that’s in the original bill by at least seven months and maybe make some other adjustments to it as needed,” he said.

Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, supported the bill and said it was a model piece of legislation. “This is the first of many bills and I think it will be a model for our state if we override this veto in figuring out how we address transportation and growth needs,” she said.