Ehrlich signs 170 measures into law

Governor highlights legislation aimed at aiding Md. businesses

April 27, 2004|By Ben Pillow | Ben Pillow,Baltimoresun.com Staff

Touting a commitment "to level the playing field" for state businesses, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. today signed into law 170 pieces of legislation, including "brownfields" and minority business enterprise reform, as well as historic preservation tax credits.

"Today, we take significant steps in the right direction to level the playing field for Maryland businesses and continue to strengthen Maryland's economic future through revitalization of unused facilities and older communities," Ehrlich said in a statement. "These bills reinforce the message that under the Ehrlich-Steele administration, Maryland is open for business."

Ehrlich's proposal to streamline the process for cleaning up and redeveloping polluted industrial sites -- the 7-year-old brownfields program -- sailed through the legislature. State officials hope the speedier process will enable them to double the 90 sites Maryland has reclaimed so far.

Brownfields redevelopment aims to identify contaminated industrial sites, clean them up and reuse them. Some prominent brownfields projects include the former Montgomery Ward site in Southwest Baltimore, and Canton's American Can Co.

Ehrlich also signed two Minority Business Enterprise Reform bills into law, furthering development of a program to involve more minorities in state business. A year ago, Ehrlich established a panel -- chaired by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele -- to review the state's minority business program, after an audit by the Department of Legislative Services showed that there was little or no accountability over the program and that state requirements were not being met.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, had hailed the General Assembly's passage of a renewal of the historic preservation tax credit, despite new restraints on commercial projects and a 50 percent cap on Baltimore's share.

The historic tax credit program, which has helped finance the redevelopment of the Hippodrome and other highly visible projects, was set to expire in June without Assembly action.

Among the bills Ehrlich also signed today:

SB 903: Elevates the head of the Office of Minority Affairs from director to special secretary.

SB 904: Establishes a small business reserve program that requires designated procurement units to make specified contracts with small businesses.

HB 298: Provides that an order of the state Ethics Commission is not stayed automatically by the filing of a petition for judicial review, but that the commission or court may stay the order; also provides that the act applies only prospectively.

SB 141: Requires that payments due by the state for the Baltimore Zoo under a lease or sublease agreement be included in the annual budget for the Board of Public Works.

A complete list of bills signed by Ehrlich today can be found at http://www.gov.state.md.us.

Sun staff contributed to this article.

Originally published April 27, 2004, 12:25 PM EDT

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