“I obviously have no direct control over the behavior of Alabama lawmakers. . . . However, I can work to ensure that Maryland’s taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize extremism,” Franchot wrote on Facebook. He called the measure “an assault on the basic values of our country and the State of Maryland.”
On Wednesday, the Maryland Board of Public Works — composed of Franchot, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) — will decide whether to renew a contract with 34 companies that provide child-placement services for the state Department of Human Services. The companies include Seraaj Family Homes, which is based in Alabama but has locations in Baltimore County and Prince George’s County, among other places.
A Franchot spokeswoman said Monday that the comptroller objected to the company.
But on Tuesday, it was unclear what Franchot would do.
Alan Brody, a spokesman for Franchot, said he expected the comptroller to “raise” the issue of a state contract being awarded to an Alabama-based company at the meeting Wednesday morning but not necessarily vote against it.
“What I’m unclear on is what form his opposition is going to take,” Brody said.
He said Franchot may recommend removing Seraaj from the larger contract, and he may urge Hogan and Kopp to join him in opposing the Alabama-based firm.
Franchot declined an interview request.
The one-year contract would provide placement services for 2,091 children across Maryland, according to the board agenda. It was unclear how many of those children are handled by Seraaj Family Homes.
The contract with the Department of Human Services would run from July 1 until June 30, 2020.
Seraaj Family Homes did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Kopp said the treasurer had not taken a position on the contract and did not know that it included the Alabama-based company until she was contacted by reporters asking about it.
Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the governor is “aware of the comptroller’s concerns” and is “reviewing this issue ahead of tomorrow’s Board of Public Works meeting.”
Franchot last month called on the State Retirement and Pension System, which he helps oversee, to review whether the state has any investments with companies in Alabama or business with Alabama-based investment managers, brokers or consultants. As vice chair of the pension board, he said, he would push to ensure that no employee or trustee of the pension system travels to Alabama for conferences or meetings.
Similar pressure was widely applied in North Carolina in 2016 when legislators there passed a bill that restricted which public bathroom transgender people could use. That “bathroom bill” was repealed in 2017 after criticism and economic boycotts, including from the film and sports industries.
Celebrities and others have similarly pledged to do what they can to fight strict abortion bans being passed by Alabama and several other states. Meanwhile, the secretary of state in Colorado forbade business travel by her employees to Alabama, and top donors to the University of Alabama have widely criticized the new law.
“It is my hope that this will put the ‘leaders’ of Alabama, and those of other states who may be contemplating abusing public laws for theocratic gratification, on notice that this is, indeed, 2019,” Franchot’s Facebook post said. “Gratuitous attacks on the freedoms and the well-being of women will come at a prohibitive price.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a statement Tuesday that “Alabama is open for business, and our deep commitment to advancing economic opportunities for Alabamians will continue to remain a top priority for our state.”