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Government & Politics

In Final Actions, Hogan Vetoes Bills Dealing With Union Dues, Red Line and Mail-In Ballots

The door to the Governor’s Reception Room in the Maryland State House. The room is the traditional site of bill signing ceremonies in Annapolis. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) made his final decisions on bills passed during the 2022 General Assembly session on Friday. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

In what are likely his final decisions on legislative actions, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) vetoed 18 bills on Friday, including measures that would have allowed Marylanders to deduct union dues from state income taxes, established a regional transit system in the Baltimore region, and set new guidelines for counting mail-in ballots.

The governor also allowed 294 bills to take effect without his signature, including measures that would increase salaries for the state’s comptroller, treasurer and attorney general next term, and to add the Patuxent Riverkeeper as a permanent member of the Patuxent River Commission.

Hogan, whose final term ends next January, was required by law to act on the remaining pieces of pending legislation passed during the 2022 General Assembly session this week.

His vetoes are likely to stand. Because it’s an election year, the new legislature in 2023 cannot override the veto of legislation passed by lawmakers this session.

While news of the governor’s actions started to swirl earlier in the day Friday, the official announcement came around 4 p.m.

Hogan, who prioritized in-person bill signings for bills that passed by wide bipartisan margins, invoked politics in some of the veto letters released Friday.

On the bill dealing with union dues, Hogan wrote: “I cannot in good faith allow House Bill 172 to go into effect and promote such an unfair advantage to unions and activists. By using the tax code to confer political power to unions, it creates a political advantage — not only to the unions but also to the political parties and candidates supported by them.”

House Bill 862, was the source of lengthy partisan debates during the legislation session. The bill was intended to provide voters a chance to “cure” any issues with mail-in ballots to prevent rejection and allow local boards of election to pre-process ballots before Election Day to allow for more timely reporting of results, among other changes.

“While this legislation allows a voter to provide a missing signature by one of several ways — including in person, mail, email, and text — it remains silent on basic security measures such as signature verification — with Maryland being one of only nine states that does not conduct signature verification — and does nothing to address ballot collecting,” Hogan wrote in a veto letter.

Democratic lawmakers and advocates expressed disappointment with some of the governor’s decisions.

In addition to the veto of the bill to establish a Baltimore-based regional transit board, the governor also vetoed House Bill 632, which would have required the state to fund a new study related to the Red Line light rail project in Baltimore, which Hogan canceled in 2015.

“It is disappointing that the Governor has chosen to veto legislation that would take another serious look at building a new light rail line to connect the east and west sides of the city,” said Donald C. Fry, the outgoing president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. “…When Congress took bold steps to pass an infrastructure bill our Congressional members, led by Senators [Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen] successfully inserted language that directed that the Red Line could move back into the approved project list pending state action. The veto of the legislation delays the potential for this important transit project that would benefit Baltimore City and the region economically, socially and culturally.”

Other bills that Hogan vetoed include Senate Bill 819 and House Bill 287, which would have set new requirements for appointees to head the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services and state Department of Health, respectively.

“Senate Bill 819 and House Bill 287 create a dangerous precedent and significantly undermine the voters and the Maryland Constitution, which entrusts the executive branch with making appointments to critical government roles,” he wrote in a veto letter.

The governor also vetoed Senate Bill 384, which would have delayed eviction proceedings if a tenant applied for government rental assistance programs, and Senate Bill 563, which would have required landlords to prove they were in compliance with local rental laws before trying to evict a tenant.

“Maryland already has some of the strongest tenant protection laws in the nation and these bills impose additional burdens on small property owners who are already struggling to stay in business. We will continue to work at the state and local levels to help tenants and landlords ensure that rent payments and rental licenses are current and in good standing,” Hogan wrote in a veto letter. “However, SB 384 and SB 563 will do little to help tenants and will make it harder for small and family-owned property owners to stay in business.”

Hogan allowed Senate Bill 592, which requires landlords to accept rental assistance payments from government agencies as a form of payment to avoid eviction, to become law.

A complete list of Senate bills that will take effect without Hogan’s signature is available here.

A complete list of House bills that will take effect without the governor’s signature is available here.