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Hogan vetoes ‘ban the box’ legislation, bill to abolish handgun permit review board

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R). (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday vetoed eight bills passed by the Democratic-majority legislature in Annapolis, including measures designed to tighten who receives permits for concealed handguns and to make it easier for people with criminal backgrounds to get jobs.

The Republican governor justified some vetoes by saying the proposed laws would have usurped his power and derided other legislation as misguided or unworkable. The General Assembly, where Democrats hold more than three-fifths of the seats in each chamber, will have an opportunity to override the vetoes when it reconvenes in January.

Hogan announced that he would let several pieces of high-profile legislation become law without his signature, including a first-in-the-nation measure to curtail rising drug prices, a ban on foam packaging and a measure allowing gender-neutral driver’s licenses. Hundreds of other bills, from allowing same-day voter registration to expanding the sale of chilled beer kegs in Montgomery County, will also be enacted without Hogan’s signature.

The governor struck down a plan to let judges — rather than a panel of political appointees — make the final decision on who can have a concealed-carry permit, saying the proposal to eliminate the panel would not reduce violent crime and “is just another in a long series of politically motivated and ill-conceived power grabs.”

He also vetoed “ban the box” legislation that would have prevented many employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until after an initial job interview. In his veto letter, the governor said employers have the right to screen applicants’ criminal histories upfront. Advocates say the bill is crucial for former inmates who struggle to find jobs.

Hogan rejected a bill that would have changed how the state manages the rebounding oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay, saying the measure would endanger long-term restoration efforts. Earlier this year, he vetoed a bill to permanently protect five oyster sanctuaries from harvest — a top priority of late House speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). The legislature overrode that veto before it adjourned in early April.

A bill that would have expanded tuition breaks for immigrants also was vetoed, with Hogan saying it had been cast too narrowly and should benefit more students.

Another veto nixed a measure that would require $3.8 million annually from the state to develop bike lanes. Hogan wrote that the legislation was written in such a way that it created “unnecessary and costly bureaucratic hurdles, risks federal funding, and impedes our progress to improve transit services.”

Three other bills he vetoed dealt with collective bargaining, how railroads staff freight trains and processes for certain political appointments.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) said they were disappointed with the vetoes and pledged to overturn them.

“I am confident the House will take up many of these overrides in January,” Jones said in a statement.

Starting July 1, Maryland will become the first state empowered to limit what state and local government employees pay for certain prescription drugs. Policymakers consider the Prescription Drug Affordability Board an initial step to policing rising drug prices statewide and envision it as a national model to curb runaway drug costs.

An earlier attempt by the General Assembly to limit drug prices was successfully challenged in court.

“Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them, and we are going to do all we can to make them affordable,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative.

The drug board was among several landmark health care bills Hogan will allow to become law without his signature.

Under another measure, Maryland will extend a tax on health insurance companies, using the money to subsidize the skyrocketing premiums of insurance policies sold on the individual market.

A third health-care bill — the first of its kind in the country — would require Maryland to withdraw from a federal family planning program known as Title X if the Trump administration follows through on plans to forbid providers from referring women to abortion clinics.

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