Hogan Vetoes Target Transit Spending, Collective Bargaining, COVID Oversight and More

While Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) was barnstorming the Lower Shore Friday urging Marylanders to get COVID-19 vaccines, he also vetoed several bills and let hundreds of others become law without his signature. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) vetoed several more pieces of legislation Friday, targeting bills that would have expanded workers’ rights, bolstered public transit, permitted local governments to raise taxes, and allowed some teachers to continue teaching remotely in the upcoming school year.

With Saturday’s deadline looming for Hogan to take action on legislation that the General Assembly moved in its 2021 session, the governor weighed in on hundreds of bills Friday, vetoing 19 measures and allowing hundreds of others to become law without his signature.

Hogan vetoed four bills on Wednesday, and signed dozens of others earlier in the month. Lawmakers overrode 40 Hogan vetoes from the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions while this year’s session was taking place and will undoubtedly take up his latest round of vetoes when they next reconvene.

In a statement Friday, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said he was “startled” by the number of vetoes, which, he said, included “legislation to help Marylanders fight the COVID pandemic, strengthen Maryland’s transportation system, protect the rights of our working families, and so much more.”

Hogan’s office on Friday spotlighted his veto of House Bill 1322, a measure from Del. Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s) that would allow school personnel to continue to teach remotely during the 2021-2022 school year under certain circumstances. Hogan, who has frequently clashed with teachers’ unions, has insisted that school districts return to full-on classroom instruction as quickly as possible.

“As we move forward in our recovery, we must do everything in our power to keep Maryland students healthy, safe, and learning. We cannot create additional barriers, which would only lead to further confusion with limited time left in the school year. Our students deserve better,” Hogan wrote in a letter to Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) explaining his veto.

Hogan also vetoed three bills that he said could lead to higher taxes – SB 133/HB 319, from Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery), which would allow local governments to raise taxes on certain individuals; HB 933, sponsored by Del. J. Sandra Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel), which would allow Anne Arundel County to increase the transfer tax on certain real estate transactions and use the extra revenue for affordable housing programs; and HB 1209, a bill from House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) repealing the sunset date of a sales tax on car sharing services.

“As we begin our road to recovery, it would be unconscionable to raise taxes on our citizens and job creators at this critical time,” Hogan wrote in his veto message.

The Maryland Fair Funding Coalition countered with a statement that said that by vetoing the bill giving local governments more flexibility to raise taxes, Hogan “has made it clear that he supports taxes that place a heavier burden on lower-income and middle-class families.”

The governor also vetoed a bill that had been seven years in the making – SB 746/HB 894, from Sen. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard) and Del. Keith Haynes (D-Baltimore City) – which would extend collective bargaining rights to workers at the state’s community colleges.

Hogan also vetoed two other collective bargaining measures – SB 9, from Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), which would have expanded collective bargaining rights on University System of Maryland campuses, and SB 717/HB 904, from Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Montgomery) and Del. Tony Bridges (D-Baltimore City), another higher education collective bargaining measure. The governor said these bills “seek to address problems that do not exist and change labor practices that have existed for decades.”

Hogan also vetoed bills designed to bolster public transit in the state, including SB 199/HB 114, a measure from state Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) and Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) to help the state catch up on its transit maintenance backlog, and SB 97, from Rosapepe, which would require the state to begin marketing the Purple Line light rail project in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Hogan said both bills would have limited the state’s budget flexibility.

The McCray-Lierman legislation was a major priority of Baltimore-area leaders, still smarting from Hogan’s decision to cancel funding for the proposed Red Line project in 2015, and transit advocates and environmentalists were incredulous Friday.

“Gov. Hogan is out of step with what Marylanders in the 21st century need,” said Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club. “This legislation would help Marylanders have better access to safe and reliable transit and reduce climate pollution. We call on the General Assembly to override his veto as soon as they are in session.”

Hogan also vetoed HB 464, co-sponsored by the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County delegations, which would expand upon the application process government agencies have to go through to build public projects in the region.

Agencies would be required to submit complete, explanatory reports and architectural drawings to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) when proposing public projects. The M-NCPPC would then have three days to accept submissions or provide the organization with an explanation of why it is considered incomplete. The organizations would then have the opportunity to amend and resubmit their plans.

“House Bill 464 jeopardizes economic development in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties by delaying critical projects through a unique and subjective set of processes and approvals not followed in other parts of the State or region,” Hogan wrote in his veto letter.

Another Hogan veto was of a measure sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard), HB 278, which would alter the criteria that establishes what constitutes a qualified position and revitalization area under the Job Creation Tax Credit program. Under the bill, a qualified position would have set standards for employee pay rates, have career advancement training requirements and paid leave, allow for collective bargaining and guarantee workers’ compensation, health and retirement benefits.

Additionally, the definition of a revitalization area would be expanded to include Tier 1 counties.

Hogan said that the legislation would “defeat [the] purpose” of the Job Creation Tax Credit.

“We need to support Maryland’s job creators, not impose burdensome restrictions on successful incentive programs that bring economic growth to our state,” he wrote.

Hogan also vetoed measures requiring more planning for the state’s COVID-19 response and more oversight of state government emergency procurement decisions – an issue that has become especially relevant during the pandemic. A measure protecting commercial tenants from certain liabilities during the first six months of the pandemic also hit the cutting room floor.

In addition, Hogan vetoed clean energy measures and bills dealing with utility regulation.

Click here for a full list of the governor’s vetoes.

Click here for a list of House bills he allowed to become law without his signature.

Click here for a list of Senate bills he allowed to become law without his signature.

Check back with Maryland Matters for more coverage and analysis.

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Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran 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 was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.
Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.