Politics Roundup: Korman Reelected Chair of Montgomery County Delegation

Politics Roundup: Korman Reelected Chair of Montgomery County Delegation

Plus: Montgomery officials offer partial embrace of monorail idea; Feldman pleased with passage of clean energy bill

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From left, State Delegates Jheanelle Wilkins, Marc Korman, Al Carr and Lesley Lopez at the delegation's meeting in Rockville Wednesday night

Dan Schere

State Del. Marc Korman, a Bethesda Democrat, was reelected unanimously Wednesday night to his second term as the chair of the Montgomery County legislative delegation in the House. Korman, 37, was first elected chair in November following the general election.

The chair role involves speaking and advocating for the 24-member delegation. Korman said he was pleased with the delegation’s accomplishments during the 90-day General Assembly session that runs from January to April.

“We had a good session [in 2019] last year, particularly in the House moving school construction legislation and legislation related to P3 [public-private partnerships], but there’s a lot more work to do, obviously,” he said.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has yet to sign more than 300 bills that have reached his desk since the legislature adjourned April 8. If he does not take any action before Saturday, the bills will automatically become law. One of the outstanding bills is a ban on the retail sale and use of polystyrene, or Styrofoam, in food storage products that was sponsored by Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents Rockville and Gaithersburg. Korman said that is one of the outstanding bills that the delegation is paying attention to.

Also Wednesday night, Del. Al Carr, a 53-year-old Kensington Democrat, was reelected to his second term as vice chair of the delegation.

Montgomery politicians offer mixed endorsement of monorail proposal to relieve I-270 congestion

A proposal to build a 27-mile monorail line connecting Shady Grove with Frederick is getting mixed reviews from lawmakers.

The monorail study, as first reported in The Washington Post, was initiated by developer Robert Eisinger of the real estate firm Promark Partners, located in Bethesda. The study estimated that construction would cost $3.4 billion and that once completed, commuters could travel on the monorail from one location to the other in 31 minutes. Eisinger said it would likely be a public-private partnership. There would be a total of six stations on the monorail.

For the past two years, Montgomery County’s elected officials have heavily criticized Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) $9 billion proposal to add toll lanes to I-270 and the Beltway to ease traffic congestion, arguing that improving public transit options is a better alternative. When asked about the monorail idea, state Del. Marc Korman, a Bethesda Democrat, said he thought the idea was “interesting” and that it’s the “kind of thing we want to study and look at.”

He said state Sen. Michael Hough  of Frederick sent the governor a letter suggesting that building a monorail be studied as part of the next phase of the I-270 congestion relief project, after the planned widening ot I-270 south of Gaithersburg. “I think that’s a good idea,” Korman said.

But  said it’s more important to focus on improving existing heavy-rail infrastructure that MARC commuter trains use when traveling between Frederick and Montgomery counties, eventually terminating at Union Station in the District of Columbia.

“We should be investing in that, because it exists, it connects with our Metro and the Amtrak system, and it has great potential with some investment to have all-day, two-way commuter rail service like so many other cities have in the U.S. and abroad,” he said.

State Del. Vaughn Stewart, a Derwood Democrat, was more enthusiastic in his endorsement of the monorail concept.

“I love it. Monorail is lit,” he said, using a slang term that means “cool.”

Stewart added that the monorail proposal is “the kind of bold thinking” the state needs when it comes to transportation.

“Given our traffic woes and the impending climate crisis, we should be investing in innovative solutions like the monorail,” he said.

County Council member Tom Hucker also agreed that building a monorail was an interesting idea.

“I think the monorail needs to be studied just like MARC expansion and [Metro] Red Line expansion,” he said.

Feldman says a 50% renewable energy benchmark by 2030 is realistic

Sen. Brian Feldman, a Democrat who represents parts of Clarksburg, Poolesville and North Potomac, says he thinks Maryland’s state utilities can reach its target of using 50% renewable energy by 2030, noting the utilities  have almost reached its goal of using 25% renewable energy by 2020.

Feldman sponsored a bill, known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act, during the 2019 General Assembly session that mandates the state reach a 50% target of renewable energy use by 2030. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Wednesday that he would not take action on the bill, meaning that it will automatically become law. The General Assembly passed the bill during this year’s session.

Feldman said Thursday there are currently 170 solar companies in Maryland, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says wind and solar energy are some of the fastest-growing industries in the country. Independent economists who testified in favor of the legislation, he said, estimate that 20,000 solar jobs and 5,000 wind jobs will be created in Maryland by 2028.

“We went through the longest federal government shutdown in history…and it’s important for Maryland to diversify its private sector portfolio,” he said. “When I look at the bill broadly, I think it’s important for our state economy.”

Feldman’s bill also sets a goal—shared by Hogan—of achieving 100% renewable energy use by 2040. But Hogan said he had reservations about Feldman’s bill because he thinks it could send too many jobs out of state. Maryland imports a portion of its renewable energy from outside the state.

“Despite its name, this bill is not clean enough, nor smart enough, nor does it create the intended jobs within Maryland,” he wrote in a press release Wednesday.

Feldman said he “wished [Hogan] would have shared some of those thoughts earlier this year.”

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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