ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Robert Ehrlich's sewer surcharge bill was yanked by the
Senate environment committee Wednesday after the Republican Caucus vowed to
oppose any legislation including a fee on septic systems.
A House version of the bill was passed, despite the inclusion of septic
systems, but the legislation will likely die if Republican senators remain
adamant in their stance.
"The flush tax has been flushed," said Senate Education, Health and
Environmental Affairs Chairwoman Paula Hollinger, D-Baltimore County.
The bill would impose a $2.50 monthly fee on sewer bills and septic
system users to fund cleanup of treatment plants, which would in turn reduce
Chesapeake Bay pollution.
In a meeting last week between GOP senators and the governor, "the
consensus seems to be that we would not support the bill if it included
septics," said Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Caroline.
Based on that decision, the committee pulled the bill from consideration
by the full Senate, Hollinger said.
The administration's failure to mobilize Republican senators breaches a
promise and makes a mockery of the committee's efforts, Hollinger said.
"We worked for hours and hours on this bill," she said. "We did our work
and they didn't."
The administration participated in the committee's hours-long discussions
on the bill and accepted the committee's amendments, including the
controversial inclusion of septic tanks, Hollinger said.
The governor's office had even praised the committee for its work on the
complicated bill and had promised to garner support to ensure its passage,
"Don't come and tell us how wonderful (the bill) it and then leave us
hanging," Hollinger said.
The senator said that she would introduce her own version of the bill
Though the governor does not support an inclusion of septic systems, he
will continue to work within a "spirit of cooperation and compromise" to see
the legislation passed, said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.
"The administration will continue to work with all interested parties
over the next week-and-a-half," she said.
But one committee member questioned the governor's sincerity in this
"Either the initiative was disingenuous from the beginning and they never
really wanted to clean up the bay," said Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince
George's, "or else the governor gave in to a couple of Republican senators
who didn't want people with septics to be charged the fee."
If the governor had really wanted this bill he would have "twisted arms"
as he did with his slots initiative, Pinsky said, though he has not
completely lost hope.
"Stranger things have happened. We have 12 days left."
2004 University of Maryland
Philip Merrill College of
Top of Page | Home Page