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Legislature Prepares to Override Hogan’s Vetoes During Special Session

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) vetoed immigration and parole reform bills in late May. When lawmakers convene for a special session on Monday, the General Assembly could override Hogan’s vetoes of more than a dozen measures. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

As the General Assembly prepares to battle Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) over redistricting during the special session that begins Monday, some issues from earlier this year will resurface when legislators consider whether to override vetoes of more than 20 bills passed last spring.

At a news conference last week, Hogan said he’s met with Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and they discussed the legislature’s intention to override several bills.

“I’m sure they’re going to be working to overturn some of my common-sense vetoes, which the vast majority of Marylanders support,” Hogan said.

Bills can be overridden if they receive 85 affirmative votes in the House and 29 in the Senate.

Most of the bills that will be rehashed arrived at Hogan’s desk with veto-proof majority votes. The fate of one particularly controversial bill that seeks to decriminalize drug paraphernalia is the least secure, having fallen one vote short of a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

Maryland Matters did a quick breakdown of what bills may or may not go into effect this week:

Immigration Reform

House Bill 16: Sponsored by Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery), House Bill 16, or the Dignity Not Detention Act, would ban jurisdictions from entering agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold detainees in their local jails and would require that they end any existing detention contracts with ICE by Oct. 1, 2022.

This legislation would not require counties to end 287 (g) agreements through which local jailers screen inmates for immigration violations.

Additionally, the Dignity Not Detention Act would disallow law enforcement officers to inquire about someone’s immigration status during traffic and other stops.

The regular session tally: 86-46 in the House, 30-17 in the Senate — veto-proof majorities.

House Bill 23: Sponsored by House Environment and Transportation Committee Vice Chair Dana M. Stein (D-Baltimore County), this legislation would require state employees to deny requests from federal agents to inspect files containing photographs or other personal information and facial recognition records for the purposes enforcing civil immigration law, unless they have a valid warrant.

The regular session tally: 97-42 in the House, 32-14 in the Senate — veto-proof majorities.

Hogan’s take: In his veto letter for both bills, the governor stated that he is staunchly against enacting legislation that would prohibit state agencies from assisting federal law enforcement “and make Maryland a sanctuary state.”

“Local law enforcement should fully cooperate with federal law enforcement — a principle I have consistently upheld throughout three federal administrations led by presidents from both political parties,” he wrote. “Flawed legislation such as this sets a dangerous precedent regarding the state’s commitment to upholding the law and ensuring the safety of our citizens.”

Hogan has been preparing for the potential override of his vetoes. An America United — the governor’s political action committee — sent an email opposing to “sanctuary cities” and requesting donations for three “digital advocacy campaigns.” The suggested donation: $45.

Drug Paraphernalia

Senate Bill 420: Sponsored by Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), Senate Bill 420 would legalize possession of hypodermic needles, syringes and other instruments obtained with intent to use controlled dangerous substances. It would reduce the penalty for possessing drug paraphernalia from a $25,000 fine and up to four years in prison to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison.

Should the legislature override Hogan’s veto, possession of paraphernalia with the intent to illegally manufacture or distribute drugs would still be illegal.

But the bill was controversial during the 2021 legislative session, and there are questions about whether Carter’s bill will make it out of the Senate once more.

“All the bills, including that one, are going to be up for veto override next week,” David Schuhlein, a spokesperson for Ferguson, said during a phone call Thursday.

Schuhlein couldn’t say with any certainty that the veto would be overridden.

The regular session tally: 95-38 in the House, 28-19 in the Senate — one vote short of veto-proof in the Senate.

Hogan’s Take: The governor called it a “dangerous bill” in his veto letter.

“This is an ill-advised policy change that does nothing to remove drug dealers from our streets or reduce opioid-related fatalities, and instead encourages the use and possession of paraphernalia associated with drug use,” he wrote.

Parole Reform

Senate Bill 202: Championed by Senate Finance Committee Chair Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore City), Senate Bill 202 would end the practice of requiring the governor to sign off on parole recommendations for people serving life sentences.

Rather than Hogan having the final say, six of the state’s 10 parole commissioners would have to vote in favor for a person serving a life sentence to be paroled. To be considered for release under the bill, individuals serving life sentences with the possibility of parole must serve the equivalent of 20 years, including credits that could shorten that time.

Maryland is one of three states that requires the governor to sign off on parole decisions. Several iterations of this legislation have cycled through the General Assembly for years.

The regular session tally: 88-50 in the House, 30-17 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan acknowledged the “gravity” of parole decisions, noting that he was the first governor in 20 years to parole an adult serving a life sentence and the first in 24 years to parole someone sentenced, as a child, to life in prison.

He called the bill an “unfounded and unnecessary power grab,” adding that he believed it was an attempt by the legislative branch “to diminish the authority of the governor.”

“I have an obligation to ensure the safety of all Marylanders, and including the governor in the parole process provides an important check on the Maryland Parole Commission, especially since the individuals who are sent to me for consideration have committed truly horrendous crimes, including first degree murder, rape, and sexual assault,” he wrote.

Collective Bargaining

Senate Bill 746/House Bill 894: Co-sponsored by Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard) and former Del. Keith E. Haynes (D-Baltimore City), Senate Bill 746 and House Bill 894 would create a collective bargaining process for full- and part-time faculty and some employees at the state’s community colleges.

The regular session tally: 94-41 in the House, 31-14 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Senate Bill 9: Sponsored by Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), Senate Bill 9 would require the chancellor of the University System of Maryland to represent all of the institutions that fall under its umbrella for collective bargaining purposes rather than the president of each individual college or university.

The regular session tally: 96-39 in the House, 32-15 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Senate Bill 717/House Bill 904: Co-sponsored by Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery) and Del. Antonio Bridges (D-Baltimore City), Senate Bill 717 and House Bill 904 would require employers to encourage new state and college employees to meet with their potential labor union during their first full pay period or at an onboarding program that takes place within the first two weeks of their employment.

The regular session tally: 97-41 in the House, 31-14 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, the governor said that all three bills “address problems that do not exist and change labor practices that have worked for decades, while creating several burdensome fiscal and operational hardships.”

Tax changes

Senate Bill 133/House Bill 319: Co-sponsored by Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Vice Chair James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery), Senate Bill 133 and House Bill 319, or the Local Tax Relief for Working Families Act of 2021, would allow local governments to apply the county income tax on a bracket basis. The change could result in lower local income tax rates for the lowest-income residents and higher rates for the wealthiest.

The legislation would also change the state’s formula for allocating “disparity grants,” or state funding to help less-wealthy counties with critical services like schools; the bill increases counties’ eligibility for disparity grant funding if the top local tax bracket rates are set higher.

The regular session tally: 95-40 in the House, 43-91 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

House Bill 933: Sponsored by Del. J. Sandra Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel), House Bill 933 would permit Anne Arundel County to impose a higher transfer tax on certain real estate deals and use the excess money to fund affordable housing programs.

The regular session tally: 95-39 in the House, 32-15 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

House Bill 1209: Sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), House Bill 1209 would extend an 8% sales tax applied to car-sharing apps. Revenue from the tax would be divvied between the Transportation Trust Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund.

The 8% tax rate applied to car-sharing services ended on June 30, reverting to the state’s standard 6% sales tax.

The regular session tally: 98-34 in the House, 37-10 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: Hogan defended vetoing these bills in a letter by saying that raising taxes during the pandemic “would be unconscionable.”

“To do so would further add to the very heavy burden that our citizens are already facing and short–circuit Maryland’s economic recovery,” he wrote.

COVID-19 Response

House Bill 1322: Sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s), House Bill 1322 would have allowed teachers to instruct students remotely during the state of emergency if they haven’t been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Hogan declared an end to the state of emergency in July, and students returned to masked in-person learning for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The regular session tally: 99-40 in the House, 30-15 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan said that there was a “broad consensus that getting all students safely back into the classroom must continue to remain our top priority,” noting that remote learning had “negative,” “tangible” impacts on students.

House Bill 719: Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair David Moon (D-Montgomery), House Bill 719 would have rendered personal liability clauses in commercial leases unenforceable during the state of emergency brought on by COVID-19.

Hogan declared an end to the state of emergency in July.

The regular session tally: 106-31 in the House, 45-1 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: The governor wrote in his veto letter that, while Moon’s legislation was “well–intentioned” in its effort to aid small businesses that had to close because of the pandemic, it would negatively impact commercial landlords, which he called “small businesses themselves.”

Senate Bill 741/House Bill 836: Co-sponsored by Rosapepe and House Health and Government Operations Committee Vice Chair Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s), Senate Bill 741 and House Bill 836, or the COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Vaccination Act of 2021, would require the Maryland Department of Health to team with local health departments and the Maryland State Department of Education to devise a two-year pandemic response plan.

The regular session tally: 113-25 in the House, 47-0 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan called the legislation “misguided” and said that its enactment would “revert the State back to the early planning phases of Maryland’s COVID–19 pandemic response efforts.”

Transportation Policy

Senate Bill 199/House Bill 114: Sponsored by Sens. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) and Zucker and Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), Senate Bill 199 and House Bill 114, or the Transit Safety and Investment Act, would extend portions of the Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act to increase operations and capital spending for the Maryland Transit Administration. Also, the bill would establish a $2 million Purple Line Construction Zone Grant Program through the Department of Commerce to assist small businesses.

The regular session tally: 104-35 in the House, 38-9 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan wrote that this bill would take away the Maryland Department of Transportation’s ability to be flexible with its spending during emergency situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 97: Sponsored by Rosapepe, Senate Bill 97, or the Purple Line Marketing Act, would require the Maryland Transit Administration to develop a media marketing p[lan to be implemented following the completion of the Purple Line. The governor would be mandated to allot $500,000 from the Transportation Trust Fund to aid the plan’s development.

The regular session tally: 98-41 in the House, 31-15 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, the governor said that Rosapepe’s bill was “premature in its timeline, reduces budget flexibility, and legislatively unnecessary,” noting that the pandemic had a large financial impact on the Transportation Trust Fund.

Energy and Environment

Senate Bill 460/House Bill 419: Co-sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Del. Lily Qi (D-Montgomery), Senate Bill 460 and House Bill 419 would create an accelerator program to provide training opportunities and seed funding for technology companies engaged in clean energy development.

The regular session tally: 97-40 in the House, 45-2 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan wrote that he “support[s] the sponsors’ intent” but the bill “would divert funds from existing programs with a great deal of accountability and strong records of success.”

Senate Bill 417/House Bill 777: Co-sponsored by Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Benjamin T. Brooks Sr. (D-Baltimore County), Senate Bill 417 and House Bill 777 would create a six-month deadline for the Power Plant Research Program to review and make recommendations on applications for certificates of public convenience and necessity related to the construction or modification of solar power plants.

The regular session tally: 94-41 in the House, 34-11 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan wrote that he supports the bill’s intent, but its language would require that all applications for certificates of public convenience and necessity be reviewed in the same six-month span, which could put state agencies “in jeopardy of noncompliance.”

Procurement and potpourri

Senate Bill 780/House Bill 1003: Co-sponsored by Pinsky and Lierman, Senate Bill 780 and House Bill 1003 would require the governor and members of his cabinet to notify the Legislative Policy Committee within 72-hours of executing an emergency contract during a state of emergency.

The regular session tally: 131-1 in the House, 47-0 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, the governor called the notification requirements “arbitrary” and only creates administrative challenges “when time is of the essence.”

“It is unreasonable – and frankly, out of touch – for the legislature to expect the Governor or an agency head to check boxes on a form rather than focus on the emergency at hand,” Hogan wrote.

Senate Bill 829/House Bill 1091: Co-sponsored by Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard) and Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery), Senate Bill 829 and House Bill 1091 would create a statutory definition of what constitutes an emergency when entering into emergency procurement contracts and mandate the attorney general, the secretary of the Department of Transportation and the special secretary for the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs to layout guidelines that agencies must follow when determining the optimal participation goal for minority business enterprises when entering into emergency contracts.

The regular session tally: 125-12 in the House, 47-0 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, the governor said that this legislation would delay emergency procurements during critical moments.

Senate Bill 30/House Bill 133: Co-sponsored by Guzzone, Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) and Del. Marc A. Korman (D-Montgomery), Senate Bill 30 and House Bill 133 would increase the notice required by the governor before submitting budget cuts to the Board of Public Works to seven days.

The regular session tally: 100-29 in the House, 47-0 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, the governor called the legislation “yet another power grab by the legislative branch that serves only to inhibit the executive branch’s ability – and Constitutional responsibility to best manage the State’s fiscal health in times of unforeseen crisis and fiscal uncertainty.”

House Bill 464: Co-sponsored by the Montgomery and Prince George’s County Delegations, House Bill 464 would create clearer deadlines for local government agencies to submit planning proposals to the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission for review and recommendations. The bill specifies that the planning commission would have 60 days to make recommendations after receiving a “complete submission” of planning documents for public works projects. Opponents, including the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance and Maryland Department of Transportation said the new process could lead to delays if there are squabbles over whether a submission is complete.

The regular session tally: 133-2 in the House, 47-0 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, Hogan wrote that the legislation “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.”

House Bill 278: Sponsored by Del. Jessica M. Feldmark (D-Howard and Baltimore County), House Bill 278 would alter the state’s Job Creation Tax Credit program by requiring that new positions that qualify for the credit pay a local prevailing wage or 150% of the state’s minimum wage, offer career advancement opportunities, provide paid leave and offer employees the right to collectively bargain, among other provisions.

The regular session tally: 93-39 in the House, 35-12 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Hogan’s Take: In his veto letter, the governor said that imposing tighter restrictions on what does and does not qualify for the Job Creation Tax Credit as businesses begin to recover from the pandemic would be “unconscionable,” and would make Maryland less attractive for job-creating projects than neighboring states with similar credits.

Senate Bill 95: Sponsored by Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) would require contractors and subcontractors on public utility projects to pay workers a prevailing wage.

The regular session tally: 93-42 in the House, 31-15 in the Senate — a veto-proof majority.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report. 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include details on Senate Bill 95.

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Legislature Prepares to Override Hogan’s Vetoes During Special Session