As ses­sion nears close, Ho­gan ve­toes two bills, signs three

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - By RACHEL BLUTH Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

AN­NAPO­LIS — The 2016 ses­sion of the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly may end in April the way it be­gan in Jan­uary: with veto over­ride votes.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan, a Repub­li­can, an­nounced April 5 that he would veto a bill chang­ing the com­po­si­tion of the Anne Arundel County School Board Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mis­sion, which then rec­om­mends can­di­dates for the board of ed­u­ca­tion to the gov­er­nor.

This is his sec­ond veto this ses­sion. On April 1, Ho­gan ve­toed a Demo­cratic plan — the Mary­land Open Trans­porta­tion In­vest­ment De­ci­sion Act — that scores trans­porta­tion projects on a num­ber of met­rics be­fore de­cid­ing which to fund.

But, due to a rarely used pro­ce­dural ma­neu­ver, and a no­tably early ap­proval of the gov­er­nor’s $42 bil­lion op­er­at­ing bud­get, the Demo­crat-con­trolled Gen­eral Assem­bly still has time to over­ride both.

In or­der to leave time to over­ride po­ten­tial ve­toes from the gov­er­nor, the Gen­eral Assem­bly took ad­van­tage of a “six-day rule” — forc­ing the gov­er­nor to act on about two dozen bills the leg­is­la­ture had ap­proved by Fri­day — a move the gov­er­nor called “un­usual.”

For most leg­is­la­tion, bills are sent to the gov­er­nor up to 20 days af­ter the ses­sion ends, and the gov­er­nor has 30 days af­ter that — likely May 31 this year — to sign it, veto it, or let it be­come law with­out his sig­na­ture. Bills de­liv­ered to the gov­er­nor within at least six days be­fore the leg­isla­tive ses­sion ends have to be dealt with be­fore the Gen­eral Assem­bly gavels out for the year.

Ho­gan called most of th­ese early bills “well in­ten­tioned,” though he said most were “not worth sign­ing or ve­to­ing.”

Be­cause they wouldn’t se­ri­ously dam­age the state, he’ll al­low them to be­come law by de­fault, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal bud­get, fund­ing for Prince Ge­orge’s Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter and blight re­moval in Bal­ti­more, he said.

The leg­is­la­ture has passed at least 230 bills as of April 5, and Ho­gan has signed three with lit­tle con­tro­versy.

On April 4, Ho­gan signed into law the Green­house Gas Emis­sions Re­duc­tion Act, which gives the state un­til 2030 to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions to 40 per­cent be­low what they were in 2006. This sets new goals from a 2009 ver­sion of the law, which only re­quired Mary­land to get to 25 per­cent be­low 2006 lev­els.

In re­sponse to the deaths of two Har­ford County deputy sher­iffs in Fe­bru­ary, Ho­gan also signed a bill that in­creases the max­i­mum age — from 18 to 26 — at which chil­dren of po­lice of­fi­cers killed in the line of duty can re­ceive death ben­e­fits. It ap­plies retroac­tively to the chil­dren of Mark Logs­don and Pat Dai­ley, whose sons were at the bill sign­ing.

Ho­gan also signed a bill giv­ing $60 mil­lion to Project Open Space over the next two fis­cal years. The money will be used to fund parks and con­ser­va­tion projects around the state, as well as in­crease fund­ing for parks in Bal­ti­more. The city will re­ceive $1.5 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2017 and re­ceive higher amounts each year un­til 2020 when the grant hits $6 mil­lion an­nu­ally, and stays at $6 mil­lion for sub­se­quent years.

A bill ex­pand­ing early vot­ing in Mont­gomery County and two tech­ni­cal bills that cor­rect er­rors in other bills were also ap­proved by the gov­er­nor.

Ho­gan said over­all the ses­sion has been a suc­cess, mostly be­cause the bud­get — his top pri­or­ity — passed with very lit­tle de­bate.

All of Ho­gan’s leg­isla­tive goals haven’t been met, though. He men­tioned re­dis­trict­ing re­form and across­the-board in­come tax re­duc­tions that have passed the Se­nate but not the House, as two bills he’d like to see passed.

“Now that all the so-called drama and con­tro­versy is over with, the leg­is­la­ture should now be able to fo­cus on some of the im­por­tant busi­ness for the re­main­der of the ses­sion,” he said.

He echoed a com­plaint he has had all ses­sion: The Gen­eral Assem­bly passes too many bills man­dat­ing spend­ing, in­clud­ing for things he had al­ready sup­ported, like blight re­moval and the Prince Ge­orge’s hospi­tal.

Ho­gan also voiced sup­port for the Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Act, a large bill which, among other things, di­verts non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers to drug treat­ment rather than in­car­cer­a­tion and elim­i­nates the dif­fer­ences in sen­tenc­ing be­tween crack and pow- der co­caine.

The House and Se­nate have passed their own ver­sions of the pub­lic-safety bill, so with days left in the ses­sion, time is tick­ing for the two cham­bers to reach a com­pro­mise in a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee. The big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween the House and Se­nate ver­sions of the bill is the is­sue of ad­min­is­tra­tive — or au­to­matic — pa­role for non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers once they have served 25 per­cent of their sen­tence.

Sen. Robert Zirkin (D-Bal­ti­more) the chair of the Ju­di­cial Pro­ceed­ings Com­mit­tee, said the House bill was too per­mis­sive in al­low­ing au­to­matic pa­role for cer­tain pris­on­ers guilty of crimes that aren’t tech­ni­cally “vi­o­lent” like hu­man traf­fick­ing, but who still pose a threat.

“It would be out­ra­geous, in my opin­ion, to put vi­o­lent of­fend­ers back out on the street,” Zirkin said.

“There’s a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween the two bills,” said Del. Joseph Val­lario (D-Prince Ge­orge’s) who chairs the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee in the House. “We’re try­ing to get it to con­fer­ence com­mit­tee as soon as pos­si­ble. That’s a cru­cial is­sue right now.”

The school board bill that Ho­gan ve­toed Tues­day in­creases the nom­i­nat­ing com­mis­sion from 11 to 13 mem­bers.

That plan takes away the gov­er­nor’s five ap­point­ments, lets the county ex­ec­u­tive choose three, and gives one nom­i­na­tion each to the NAACP, CASA de Mary­land, The Anne Arundel Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion Citizens’ Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee as well as one that will ro­tate among the county’s cham­bers of com­merce.

It also gives the Anne Arundel County Coun­cil of Par­ent Teacher As­so­ci­a­tions two votes, in­stead of one un­der the cur­rent plan.

“This bill would cre­ate a panel made up al­most en­tirely of un­elected, un­ac­count­able ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions, lob­by­ing groups and po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives,” Ho­gan said. “... This would sim­ply be hor­ri­ble pol­icy and a ter­ri­ble prece­dent to set.”

Ho­gan said he didn’t like the cur­rent sys­tem of choos­ing a school board — he thinks the gov­er­nor should be out of the process al­to­gether — but said this re­vised process is un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause it would pre­ma­turely end the terms of five mem­bers.

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