OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan’s top housing official was “off the reservation” when he spoke of trying to limit liability of landlords in lead paint cases, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said Saturday.
Rutherford spoke a day after Community and Development Secretary Kenneth Holt told an audience at a gathering of county leaders that a mother could put a lead fishing weight in a child’s mouth and then get the child tested. Holt said a landlord would then be liable for providing the child housing until age 18. Holt told The Baltimore Sun that he has no evidence of that happening. He called it “an anecdotal story” he used to illustrate his argument that the liability of landlords in lead paint cases should be limited.
“I think he was a little off the reservation on that,” Rutherford told reporters, referring to Holt.
“He has never spoken to me or to the governor or anyone on the senior staff about that, so I have no idea where that came from,” Rutherford said, noting that the administration has no plans to draft legislation to limit landlord liability in lead paint cases.
“No, no, no. That’s ridiculous,” Rutherford said.
Advocates for lead paint victims said they were outraged by Holt’s comments on Friday.
Rutherford gave the closing speech at the annual summer conference for the Maryland Association of Counties on Saturday in place of Hogan, who recently completed his third round of chemotherapy for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rutherford said while the Republican governor wanted to attend, his doctors are advising him to avoid crowds, because his immune system is down from treatment.
During his speech, Rutherford recapped some initial steps in making Maryland more business friendly in the last legislative session — Hogan’s first as governor.
“We’re looking to provide tax relief for all Marylanders. That will continue to be a top priority for the administration, and we will maintain a laser focus on growing the private sector and bringing jobs back to Maryland,” Rutherford said.
He also said the administration will be working with local officials to fix the state’s “burdensome, antiquated and out of control regulatory environment.”
“In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking to you and the county to work with us in partnership as we address this particular issue,” Rutherford said.
The lieutenant governor also spoke of the state’s response to rioting in Baltimore in April after the death of Freddie Gray, who was injured in police custody. He said the administration remains committed to investing in Baltimore, but he added that it takes more than money to address problems in the city and the rest of the state.
“We must encourage new thinking and new ideas and not be afraid to challenge the status quo, because quite frankly the status quo has not worked, so we have to be willing to challenge that,” Rutherford said.
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