Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed six bills Friday, arguing that one attempted to “second-guess” his administration, others were unwarranted and one amounted to a tax increase.
The vetoes set the stage for another battle with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly at the start of the 2017 legislative session. This year’s session opened with the legislature overriding every one of the first-term governor’s 2015 vetoes and ended with lawmakers overturning two vetoes of bills that Hogan made before the Assembly adjourned.
In letters to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Hogan slammed lawmakers for approving bills to create an oversight board for the state transit system; pay for the replacement of the Potomac River’s Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge; require the state to obtain 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020; place restrictions on a Morgan State University student housing project; and establish a commission to advise the State Board of Education.
Hogan said he will allow 84 bills to become law without his signature, including measures that will make it easier to save for college and pay off college loans; increase funding to overcrowded school districts; and restrict all consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to mass deaths of honeybees.
Hogan also will allow a bill aimed at reforming the structured-settlement industry to take effect without his signature. Under the measure, a judge would determine whether a structured-settlement transfer was in the best interest of the recipient, and the attorney general would have the authority to regulate the transfers.
Matt Clark, a spokesman for Hogan, said there were “different reasons” that the governor allowed those dozens of bills to move forward. But several contained new fees and mandates, which Hogan opposes.
Among the vetoes, Hogan rejected a bill that would have allocated money for the replacement of the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, calling it intrusive and unnecessary. Hogan said his administration is committed to replacing the bridge. But the bill, which requires $75 million to be set aside annually between 2018 and 2027, prioritizes that project above others.
Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), who sponsored the measure, noted that the state transportation authority named replacing the bridge as its top priority just a few years ago, when Democrat Martin O’Malley was governor.
“The project was at the front of the line prior to this administration,” he said.
Hogan also vetoed the creation of an oversight panel for the Maryland Transit Administration, saying it was “unnecessary, unwarranted and unwise.” He took issue with the potential cost of the reporting requirements in the bill and called it a “terrible idea” to have 11 of the panel’s 16 members come from just six jurisdictions in the state.
Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore), the bill’s sponsor, said the Maryland Transit Administration is the nation’s only major transit agency with no oversight board.
“The bill would not have taken away executive control in any way,” Lierman said. “It would have provided a voice for those that rely on transit every day, who are not being heard, and it would have required MTA to work with the people it serves.”
The legislation passed the House with 87 votes, two more than the chamber would need for a veto override next session. But it was three shy of the 29 votes needed for an override in the Senate.
There are 33 Democrats in the Senate and 91 in the House. All of the other bills that Hogan vetoed passed both chambers with enough votes to override.
Alexandra Hughes, chief of staff for Busch, said no decision has been made on whether to try to undo the vetoes.
“The speaker will be reviewing the governor’s vetoes in the coming weeks with his leadership team and talking with President Miller before making a decision about whether to override next legislative session,” she said.
The vetoed energy bill would expand the use of solar and wind power and passed with a veto-proof majority. Hogan said the bill would impose a “tax increase of between $49 million and $196 million by 2020” to fund the program’s goals.
“In a state that’s experienced so much clean-energy job growth and is so vulnerable to sea-level rise, the governor’s veto is bad for business, bad for our environment and bad politics,” said Mike Tidwell, the director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Hogan also sent a sharply worded letter to Miller about a bill that is designed to improve teacher retention and provides additional money to teachers who receive national certification.
He said he agreed with those aspects of the bill, which will become law without his signature. But he opposed a decision by the legislature to add an amendment in the final hours that provides a $1,500 stipend to teachers in Anne Arundel County that their union had pushed for without success.
Hogan said he could not sign “a bill focused on statewide educational policy as a vehicle for the General Assembly to intervene in a labor dispute at the local level.”