Despite a suggestion from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) to bring lawmakers back to Annapolis to hammer out deals on tax cuts and paid sick leave, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said Tuesday that he does not “see a special session on the horizon.”
“I do not see the urgency to come back,” Busch said, noting that special sessions in the recent past have dealt with issues that required immediate action from the legislature, such as the budget and medical malpractice insurance.
A special session can be called by the legislative leaders or the governor. Miller suggested the idea minutes after the regular 90-day session ended at midnight Monday without passage of either a sick-leave bill that progressives had pushed for or a package of tax cuts that had been a top priority for Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
“There is a possibility the speaker and myself can call the General Assembly into special session for a single day,” Miller said. “There is that possibility to do the tax package and earned sick leave. Just those two proposals. Limited special session for one day to do those two proposals.”
Hogan said he had not considered a special session.
“These guys can’t seem to get their act together,” Hogan said during a news conference after the session. “I’m not sure about the chances of a special session.”
During a bill-signing ceremony that Miller and Busch attended Tuesday morning, Hogan thanked the legislative leaders for their work to pass bills that will make sweeping changes to the criminal justice system, provide state-funded private school scholarships for students from poor families and help address the state’s heroin epidemic.
None of those major-ticket items was signed Tuesday. Among the 100 bills signed by Hogan, Busch and Miller were a measure that creates a program offering a tax credit to parents of children with developmental disabilities to save for their future and a merit-pay increase for law enforcement officers.
“We found common ground,” Hogan said of the session. “I think we sent a message that we can work together in a bipartisan fashion and we can get things done.”
Busch also thanked Miller and Hogan but used his opening remarks during the ceremony to highlight several Democratic legislative priorities that were approved by lawmakers, including a police-accountability measure, funding for Prince George’s Hospital Center and aid to Baltimore.
“I think we accomplished quite a bit. . . . We set the stage for next year,” Busch said later. “There were a few issues that we wish we would have gotten achieved. We’ll come back here, work on the interim and plan for next year.”
Busch said that if Hogan decides to call a special session, “we’ll certainly be here. . . . But the governor has to justify to the general public why he’s calling to have a special session.”
Busch and Miller said the negotiations over the tax-cut package collapsed because the House and Senate differed over who should benefit from tax relief.
“They didn’t like our high brackets. In other words, we took care of everybody in the state — top to the bottom, to encourage business to invest in the state, create jobs,” Miller said early Tuesday morning after the session adjourned.
Busch said House members “felt very strongly about making sure middle-class and working families got a break on their income taxes.”
He said delegates could not justify providing tax breaks to high-income earners on the heels of giving a $37.5 million tax credit to Northrop Grumman Corp.
The failure of the two measures frustrated many lawmakers and officials. But on Tuesday, during the bill-signing ceremony, there were several moments of levity.
During one, Hogan joked that he read one of the telephone book-size bills they were about to sign just after midnight. The idea drew a chuckle from Busch.