Maryland became the first state in the nation to agree to reimburse Planned Parenthood clinics for their services if Congress defunds the organization, after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan allowed the bill to become law Thursday without his signature.
And in a second victory for progressives, a top aide to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said a bill to allow judges to require bail for poor defendants would not get a vote in the House.
Alexandra Hughes, Busch’s chief of staff, said the speaker made the decision after Democratic legislative leaders polled their caucus and concluded the measure did not have enough support to pass.
The Planned Parenthood bill was one of 15 measures that advanced without the governor’s signature. Among them was a measure that provides state money to the attorney general’s office to sue the Trump administration on policies dealing with health care, immigration and the environment.
“Today, Maryland makes history . . . unfortunately without the support of the governor,” said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill to fund Planned Parenthood. “While I wish our state didn’t need to fight the attacks on comprehensive health care by Congress, we are proud to stand up and protect access in Maryland.”
Hogan had until midnight Wednesday to decide whether to sign or veto the bills that the General Assembly sent to his desk last week.
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, declined to comment on why the governor allowed the 15 bills to move forward without his signature.
The only legislation Hogan rejected was an education accountability measure that prohibits the state school board from converting failing schools into charter schools, giving students taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private schools and placing the schools in a state-run “recovery” school district.
Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly overturned the governor’s veto after a long debate over how to identify and fix the state’s failing schools.
Hogan had labeled the bill “misguided” and “irresponsible,” a measure that would have a “disastrous effect” on the state’s education system.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said the bill “protects schools from privatization and other quick fixes.”
The education accountability legislation, which was backed by the state teachers union and opposed by the State Board of Education, sets up a new accountability system for schools. It bases 65 percent of ratings on academic indicators, including schools’ standardized test scores.
Hogan, a supporter of charter schools and private-school vouchers, has argued that the rating system ought to give greater weight to academic indicators, including test scores.
“Instead of being a national leader in education, Maryland would become a national leader in deprioritizing student learning,” Hogan said in a veto letter sent to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Busch on Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said high-stakes testing should not be central to determining a school’s success, but he railed against provisions that would bar the state from using charter schools, private-school vouchers or private management teams to deal with struggling schools.
“This bill, while well-intended, traps students in failing schools and lessens accountability in the bureaucracy of education,” he said. “It will not help the little boys and little girls that we’re here to serve.”
Democrats said the heavy focus on standardized testing that began more than a decade ago has done virtually nothing to close achievement gaps.
“It is impossible to test children out of poverty,” said Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), a middle school teacher who sponsored the bill. “What it has done is force our schools and our educators to teach to the test. . . . It’s time for a new era in education, where we value more than just test scores.”
Other bills that will become law without the governor’s signature include the state’s capital budget, $100 million in funding to Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center, a repeal of a requirement that transit systems cover at least 35 percent of their operating costs through passenger revenue, and legislation that blocks watermen from harvesting within oyster sanctuaries until the state conducts a survey of the mollusk population.
The governor signed 11 of the 27 bills forwarded by the General Assembly, including a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing, an extension of the time frame in which sexually abused children can sue their abusers, and an agreement with Virginia and the District to develop a safety oversight commission for Metro.
The bill that would have resurrected Maryland’s bail system had sparked extensive debate in the legislature.
Its failure effectively leaves in place a recent Court of Appeals rules change that instructs judges to use the “least onerous” conditions when setting bail for a defendant who is not considered a danger or a flight risk.
Busch’s decision was first reported by the Baltimore Sun.
Progressive advocates and lawmakers in Maryland have tried for years to abolish bail for poor defendants, saying it can leave defendants who are not flight risks languishing in jail before trial simply because they lack the money to post bond.
But the Court of Appeals decision was strongly opposed by the bail bond industry, who said it took away judges’ discretion and would mean more criminals on the street.
Also on Thursday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would make Maryland the first state in the country to authorize the attorney general to take legal action to prevent price gouging of off-patent or generic drugs.
The House gave preliminary approval to a Senate bill that would set up a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw Maryland’s congressional voting boundaries if five other states agree to do the same, with the goal of ending partisan gerrymandering. The other states are New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Hogan this year proposed competing legislation that would require Maryland alone to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission. A House committee rejected the proposal, and the relevant Senate committee has not voted on it.
The House also gave preliminary approval to a heavily amended bill from Hogan that would roll back a new law that requires the state to use a ranking system to determine which transportation projects deserve funding priority. The legislature enacted the measure last year despite a veto by the governor.
Hogan, who has dubbed the statute “road kill” because he believes it favors transit over roads, proposed a repeal. But lawmakers revised Hogan’s bill so it would require the state to rank transportation projects and publish the results but not for officials to base their funding decisions on the scores.