Correction: Earlier versions of this article incorrectly said Maryland would be the first state in the country to prohibit colleges and universities from asking student applicants about their criminal records. Louisiana passed a similar law last year.
Maryland’s House of Delegates rejected two of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes Thursday, voting to enact legislation that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave and prohibit public and private colleges and universities from including questions about criminal history on student applications.
The veto overrides were the first official actions for the chamber in what is shaping up to be a contentious 90-day legislative session.
If the Senate also votes to override, the bills will be enacted into law. An aide to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said the Senate could consider the overrides as early as Friday.
The sick-leave bill passed the Senate last year with exactly the two-thirds majority needed for an override. In the face of a strong lobbying campaign by Hogan, some Democrats who voted for it appear now to be wavering.
The measure would require businesses with at least 15 workers to offer five paid sick days a year. Hogan has proposed an alternative plan that would apply to employers with at least 25 workers.
Eight states — Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington and Rhode Island — as well as smaller jurisdictions that include the District and Montgomery County have enacted paid-sick-leave laws.
In the House, Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) said that the vetoed measure is “too prescriptive” for businesses and would infringe on workers’ privacy by allowing employers to require verification when employees seek more than two consecutive days off for illness or to deal with domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking.
Szeliga encouraged lawmakers to instead consider Hogan’s proposal, which would allow workers to use sick leave with no questions asked. “There’s a better way to do this,” she said.
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore City), who said she is a survivor of domestic abuse, spoke in support of the veto override, saying it was important to ensure victims can take time off work when they need it.
“I’m the face of so many others who can’t stand here today,” she said. “We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good when we look at this issue.”
Hogan press secretary Shareese Churchill dismissed the House vote as “largely a political exercise.”
“Marylanders are more interested in good policy than partisan politics, and there is still time to get this right,” Churchill said in a statement.
The House voted 88 to 52 to enact the sick-leave legislation and 90 to 50 to override Hogan’s veto of the “ban the box” bill.
Maryland is one of more than a dozen states that ban public employers from asking about past convictions on job applications. The “ban the box” legislation for college applications, would be the second law of its kind in the country, and is part of a broader criminal justice effort to help felons remake their lives. Louisiana passed a similar measure last year.
“Our objective is to move people from incarceration to better life,” Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), the lead sponsor, said during the debate.
Hogan vetoed the bill because he said the legislation poses safety risks for universities. Del. Haven N. Shoemaker Jr. (R-Carroll) said the bill “goes way too far,” given a rise in sexual assaults on college campuses, and could lead to unintended consequences.
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse took issue Thursday with an assertion by McIntosh during the floor debate that sexual assault on campus has more to do with alcohol than with whether schools admit people with criminal records.
“This shows a clear lack of understanding of the seriousness of the issue of sexual assault on campus and comes dangerously close to blaming the victims,” Chasse said.
McIntosh said Chasse was trying to twist her comment. “I’m not referring to victims. I’m referring to perpetrators, and a climate that leads to more sexual abuse,” she said. “Research shows that drinking and drugs has led to sexual violence on campuses.”
The bill does not affect Maryland colleges that use the Common Application or other third-party application systems. But those colleges would be required to include a notice on their websites that any information they receive about criminal history will not disqualify applicants from being accepted.
Also Thursday, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard from advocates who have been pushing for nearly a decade to pass a bill that would allow women who become pregnant as a result of a rape to terminate an attacker’s parental rights.
The legislation didn’t move out of the General Assembly last session and has become a priority this year. “Time’s up on this one,” Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), the president of the Women Legislators of Maryland group, told the panel. “We’re ready to see this bill passed.”