Here Are Two Dozen Bills Becoming Law Without Hogan’s Signature

Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

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:

Civil rights 

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

Economic development

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.

Ethics/good government/elections

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.

Workplace issues

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.

Climate/environment

HB 539, authorizes local governments to establish and operate resilience authorities.

Poverty

HB 206/SB 207, enables homeless minors to seek emergency shelter and other government services without parental consent.

HB 1313, prevents the state from denying certain benefits to recipients of income assistance funds if they have not met “work activity” requirements.
SB 760, ends the practice of “lunch shaming” if the balance in a public school student’s meal account gets too low.
Danielle E. Gaines, Bruce DePuyt and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this report.
Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.