In the last State of the State Address of his four-year term, Gov. Larry Hogan called for rising above political discord.
“Instead of becoming more like Washington, let’s send a message to Washington by putting the politics aside and coming together for all Marylanders," he said during Wednesday's speech.
But almost everything about the way the speech was received was partisan, down to the applause, which came almost exclusively from Republicans.
After the speech, Hogan received praise from leaders in his own party.
“In the politics that we’re all part of right now, this governor’s really a role model for politicians,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “He’s urging us to work together and focus on real-life issues.”
Democrats, on the other hand, took issue with what Hogan did not say in his 23-minute speech.
On transportation infrastructure, Hogan highlighted traffic improvements to several major highways. He said his administration has repaved more than 8,000 miles of highway, more than a third of the state’s highway system.
But Hogan’s only reference to transit was about the Purple Line light rail in the Washington suburbs.
“I think he said the word Baltimore only once in his speech, having to do with the port — which is very important — but he did not mention Baltimore Link. He did not mention MTA’s Baltimore central transportation system,” said Del. Brooke Lierman, who represents South Baltimore. “It is a huge issue, and it’s frankly shocking to me that the governor made no mention of the need for public transportation in the Central Maryland area.”
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming governor’s race, wasn’t satisfied with what Hogan said about public schools.
Hogan called for greater accountability from school officials and for giving test scores a larger role in determining which schools are classified as failing.
But Kamenetz said he wanted to hear more about fixing the achievement gap.
“We have the eighth-worst disparity in the achievement gap in the country, for one of the wealthiest states,” Kamenetz said. “I’d like to hear more about programs that are actually going to help the bottom half of children succeed.”
Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn, chairwoman of the state Legislative Black Caucus, said she was disappointed that the speech didn’t mention one of the caucus’s top priorities: diversifying the state’s medical marijuana industry. She said the issue has bipartisan support.
“That’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that has no diversity, and the state of Maryland has a population of a minimum of one-third African Americans who have been disproportionately affected by marijuana laws for generations,” she said. “It’s unconscionable that he would not mention that.”
Several policies Hogan did mention in his speech are particularly divisive. For example, he called on legislators to get tough on crime.
“Let’s crack down on those violent criminals who use guns to commit crimes by passing tougher minimum sentences,” he said.
This is a policy for which some Democrats, such as Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, have expressed support. But Attorney General Brian Frosh, also a Democrat, said it’s the wrong approach.
“It’s back to the ’80s. It didn’t work. It had catastrophic consequences,” he said.
Still, there were a couple of bipartisan moments.
Everyone stood to applaud when Hogan introduced Salisbury resident Karen Dolch, whose son Chad, a 29-year-old Iraq war veteran, died in December of an opioid overdose.
“It was tough for Karen to be here today, but she wanted to honor Chad,” Hogan said after a lengthy period of applause. “She wanted to show us that when we talk about this crisis, we are really talking about fighting for all of the Chads and the Karens out there.”
Hogan also received universal applause when he mentioned a bill allowing women who become pregnant after being raped to strip their attackers of parental rights. The bill gained final passage just before the State of the State began. Hogan promised to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.