Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Friday vetoed a bill that would have barred colleges in the state from asking about criminal history on admissions applications, saying the measure was too restrictive for schools and would jeopardize student safety.
The action came a day after he rejected legislation that would require businesses with at least 15 employees to provide paid sick leave for their workers.
The governor’s vetoes hand a pair of issues — criminal justice reform and paid sick leave — to progressive Democrats who are deciding whether to try to challenge Hogan in 2018.
State Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who has said he will enter the race, and former NAACP executive director Benjamin Jealous (D), who is exploring a bid, have been strong proponents of paid sick leave and efforts to “ban the box” for criminal history on college and work applications.
Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), who sponsored the House version of the measure, said she would push for a veto override, which would be one of the first orders of business once the legislature reconvenes next year.
“I’m sorry to see he vetoed it, and I’m also perplexed,” she said of Hogan’s decision. “This is part of the overall criminal-justice reform that has had bipatisan support and that we need to continue to support.”
The governor noted in his veto letter that he has backed similar reform efforts in the past, including bills to reduce penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, place additional emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation, and expand opportunities for expungement.
Hogan said the college-application measure didn’t strike the same balance between providing second chances and ensuring public safety compared to the other bills, adding that it didn’t differentiate between violent and nonviolent criminal histories.
“While individuals of all criminal backgrounds should be given educational, employment, and growth opportunities, colleges and universities must have the ability to know who they are accepting onto their campuses,” he said. “We should not turn a blind eye to a prospective student’s potentially violent criminal background.”
The University System of Maryland opposed the bill, but McIntosh said she worked with many of the state’s private and historically black colleges to make sure it would not reduce safety on campuses.
The legislation would allow colleges to reject applicants with criminal records as long as they do not “automatically or unreasonably restrict” admission based on that factor, and schools could develop policies restricting such students from campus housing or certain academic programs, such pharmacy studies and law enforcement.
Additionally, the meaure would not prohibit colleges from using third-party forms such as the Common Application that ask about criminal history, as long as they add a statement on their websites saying that answering “yes” does not disqualify an applicant.
Several convicted felons who turned their lives around through higher education testified this year on behalf of the bill, including Stanley Andrisse, who spent time in prison on drug charges before earning advanced degrees and becoming a post-doctoral scientist at Johns Hopkins University.
Hogan on Friday also allowed dozens of bills to become law without his signature, including one that authorizes state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) to sue drug companies that dramatically increase the price of drugs, and another that gives the Prince George’s County executive authority to appoint the jurisdiction’s liquor board members.
The price-gouging measure, which is the first of its kind in the nation, is limited to generic and off-patent pharmaceuticals that experience “unconscionable” price increases. It allows the attorney general to take action if a manufacturer raises the cost of such drugs to a level considered unjustifiable.
“We are really leading the way on this issue,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and a lead advocate for the bill. “It’s going to do a lot to deter price gouging in Maryland, and we hope it spreads across the country.”
The liquor-board legislation was partly a response to a bribery scandal that led to indictments this year of two state delegates, the director of the liquor board, one of its members and the owners of two liquor stores.
Hogan said he supports many of the reforms in the measure, but he questioned the logic of “handing more authority to the very local officials who were supposed to be providing oversight to the Board while this unethical behavior was taking place.”
Another bill becoming law without Hogan’s signature allows Guinness to open a brewery near Baltimore and quadruples the amount of beer that craft brewers can serve in their taprooms. Brewers could get permission to serve more, but they would have to sell the additional beer to a distributor and then buy it back.