Maryland’s House of Delegates voted Wednesday to override three of Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes, a reminder to the Republican chief executive that — despite his sky-high approval ratings — Democrats still wield some power in the state capital.
The House voted to restore voting rights to felons who are on parole and probation and to resurrect a bill that requires online hotel booking companies to collect sales tax for the cost of hotel rooms they reserve in Howard County and give the full amount to the state, rather than keeping part of it as a service fee. Delegates also voted to override Hogan’s removal of $2 million in capital funds from a performing-arts hall in Annapolis.
The votes on the hotel-tax bill and for Maryland Hall passed, 90 to 51, with little debate. In each case, every Democrat in the chamber except one voted to override, and every Republican voted against doing so.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made impassioned pleas for and against overriding Hogan’s veto of the voting-rights bill.
“This is one of the last vestiges of Jim Crow in our law,” Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) said, referring to the disproportionate percentage of felons in the state who are African American. “We have a sacred responsibility to ensure the right to vote.”
Republican delegates who supported Hogan’s veto said losing the right to vote is a consequence of committing a crime; restoring it before felons complete their probation and parole, they said, goes too far. Under current law, felons can vote after they finish parole and probation.
With several felons who had pushed for the law watching from the gallery, the House voted 85 to 56 to override the veto and restore the bill. In addition to the Republican caucus, the votes against the override came from Democratic Dels. Eric M. Bromwell (Baltimore County), Ned Carey (Anne Arundel), Mark S. Chang (Anne Arundel), Mary Ann Lisanti (Harford), Theodore J. Sophocleus (Anne Arundel) and C.T. Wilson (Charles).
Hogan vetoed six bills in the spring that had been passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature. Democrats are trying to override the vetoes, which requires a three-fifths majority in each legislative chamber.
On Thursday, the Senate will attempt to override the governor’s vetoes of three bills that originated in that chamber.
One would decriminalize drug paraphernalia. One would prevent police from seizing a certain amount of property and money from people without charging them with a crime. One would require online booking companies to collect sales tax on hotel rooms booked throughout the state.
Alexandra Hughes, chief of staff to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), said the House plans to vote later Thursday on whatever overrides are passed by the Senate.
The Senate also must take action on the three bills that were considered by the House on Wednesday.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) has said reversing Hogan’s veto of the voting rights bill would be the biggest challenge.
The bill passed the Senate with 29 votes, the same number needed for an override. Since then, Sen. Karen Montgomery (D-Montgomery) has retired. Miller said the override vote “could hinge” on whoever fills her seat.
“We continue to count votes,” Miller said. “I count every day.”
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to nominate someone to fill Montgomery’s seat. Hogan will have 15 days to act on the nomination.
The Senate president said he and many others believe voting helps felons as they re-enter society. “If they are citizens, they are entitled to vote,” Miller said.