Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed six bills Friday, including legislation that would have allowed thousands of felons to vote and a measure to tax online travel services at the same rate as hotels.
Hogan (R) also rejected measures to decriminalize public smoking of marijuana and legalize pot paraphernalia; clarify rules for collecting hotel-rental taxes in Howard County; and bar law enforcement from seizing criminal assets totaling less than $300.
The voting legislation, which came in the form of companion bills from the Senate and House, would have applied to an estimated 40,000 people on probation or parole. The bill was inspired, in part, by the national conversation about racial profiling, sentencing guidelines and police conduct after violent deaths last year in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island.
“The fact is that persons released from incarceration on parole or mandatory supervision are still serving their time as a debt to society for their actions,” Hogan said in letters to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
The bill’s supporters disagreed. In a statement Friday, the Community United advocacy group said “People leaving the criminal justice system urgently need to be re-enfranchised and once again have a voice in their communities.”
The measure involving online travel agencies would have required such companies as Expedia and Travelocity to pay the same 6 percent state sales tax that hotels fork over when they charge customers directly for rooms.
Supporters of the legislation said the current law provided a sweetheart subsidy for the online services, allowing them to pay taxes based on bargain rates that they negotiate with hotels.
Hogan said he rejected the bill because the state comptroller’s office is in a legal battle with Travelocity over how to interpret the current law.
“The General Assembly should respect the long-standing practice of not passing legislation that would directly affect matters being litigated in a pending court case,” the governor said in a letter Friday to Miller.
The Travel Technology Association said in a statement Friday that the governor’s action would protect 200 small businesses in the state from additional taxes and red tape.
“Governor Hogan’s message should be carried to state houses across America looking to impose new and burdensome taxes on their own travel and tourism industries,” the association said. “The antiquated assumption that you can tax your way to prosperity is a danger to every state.”
The governor said he vetoed the marijuana legislation because it would have created uncertainty about whether individuals can smoke pot while driving.