Talk about practicing social distancing.
By allowing every bill he didn’t veto to become law without his signature, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) ensured that he doesn’t have to see a single lawmaker for a bill signing ceremony.
The COVID-19 pandemic enables Hogan to dispense with all niceties. By focusing full-time on managing the dual public health and economic crises, the governor can ignore a co-equal branch of government more than he usually does.
No doubt, the state is in an unusual place, and COVID-19 is no ordinary emergency. Hogan is working round-the-clock trying to address the challenges.
But he didn’t save any grace for the lawmakers and all their hard work during the truncated legislative session. Vetoing almost three dozen pieces of legislation was Hogan’s prerogative, as was letting more than 600 bills become law without his signature.
Yet nowhere in his veto messages did he offer any kind of olive branch or any hint that the legislature’s priorities carried any kind of validity. Nowhere did he express regret that he didn’t have the time to closely consider each measure or celebrate with the sponsors and advocates at a bill-signing ceremony. It’s as if the bills were an annoyance, something to be shrugged off — even with the necessity of social distancing.
The closest he came to acknowledging the General Assembly’s role in the governing process was in his letter to Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), telling them that he was vetoing more than 20 spending measures.
“We can and will continue our dialogue about these important issues in the years ahead, once our economy recovers,” Hogan wrote.
“As we unite to face this crisis, we are making difficult choices. I look forward to working together with the Maryland General Assembly to develop a fiscally responsible path to recovery.”
Even without the pageantry of bill-signing ceremonies — rituals that amount to a victory lap for bill sponsors and the advocates who fought for them — hundreds of bills will become law without the governor’s signature. Here’s a look at two dozen measures, organized by broad subject area:
Senate Bill 530/House Bill 231, the HOME Act, extends the state’s fair housing law to prevent housing discrimination based on a renter’s source of income — discrimination that usually targets families on public assistance.
HB 81, repeals the crime of sodomy.
HB 1444/SB 531, prevents discrimination in the workplace for hair texture and hairstyles
SB 987, aims to keep the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, by authorizing the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $375 million in bonds to pay for renovations at the state’s leading thoroughbred racing tracks, including Pimlico and Laurel Park, as well as transferring the Bowie Training Center to the City of Bowie for local use.
SB 4, establishes sports betting in the state.
HB 315, which prohibits cabinet secretaries from lobbying in Maryland for 12 months after leaving the government. The bill was amended in the final hours of the session to incorporate a Hogan administration priority, an increase in the penalties that can be levied against elected officials convicted of bribery.
HB 421/SB 363, strengthens open meetings and transparency requirements for state agencies.
HB 1222, provides new positions for campaign finance and enforcement at the State Board of Elections.
SB 390, prevents a candidate defeated in a primary election from running as a write-in candidate in the general election.
Crime and punishment
HB 5/SB 161, a hate crimes bill that prohibits an item or a symbol to threaten or intimidate.
HB 40/SB 64, increasing penalties for actions that would cause a witness to be unavailable to provide testimony.
HB 233/SB 212, increases penalties for strangulation.
HB 280/SB 234, a bill sought by Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) that restricts restricts the ability of the Motor Vehicle Administration to suspend a driver’s license for nonpayment of a traffic citation.
HB 637/SB 534, lays out guidelines for taking testimony from “in-custody” witnesses.
SB 77, provides for certain identification documents for prison inmates who are preparing to be released.
HB 14, Equal Pay for Equal Work, prevents an employer from punishing an employee who inquires about wages.
HB 123, requires an employer to provide to a job applicant the wage range for the position for which the applicant has applied.
Health and public health
HB 187/SB 329 Olivia’s Law, requires public colleges and universities to develop plans for addressing a viral outbreak on campus.
HB 959/SB 872, enshrines key consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act into state law.
HB 915/SB 632, requires hospitals to disclose certain outpatient facility fees.
HB 539, authorizes local governments to establish and operate resilience authorities.
HB 206/SB 207, enables homeless minors to seek emergency shelter and other government services without parental consent.