ANNAPOLIS — The 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly may end in April the way it began in January: with veto override votes.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced Tuesday that he would veto a bill changing the composition of the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission, which then recommends candidates for the Board of Education to the governor.
This is his second veto this session. On Friday, Hogan vetoed a Democratic plan — the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act — that scores transportation projects on a number of metrics before deciding which to fund.
But, due to a rarely used procedural maneuver, and a notably early approval of the governor’s $42 billion operating budget, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly still has time to override both.
In order to leave time to override potential vetoes from the governor, the General Assembly took advantage of a “six-day rule” — forcing the governor to act on about two dozen bills the legislature had approved by Friday — a move the governor called “unusual.”
For most legislation, bills are sent to the governor up to 20 days after the session ends, and the governor has 30 days after that — likely May 31 this year — to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. Bills delivered to the governor within at least six days before the legislative session ends have to be dealt with before the General Assembly gavels out for the year.
Hogan called most of these early bills “well intentioned,” though he said most were “not worth signing or vetoing.”
Because they wouldn’t seriously damage the state, he’ll allow them to become law by default, including the Capital Budget, funding for Prince George’s Regional Medical Center and blight removal in Baltimore, he said.
The legislature has passed at least 230 bills as of Tuesday evening, and Hogan has signed three with little controversy.
Monday, Hogan signed into law the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act, gives the state until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below what they were in 2006. This sets new goals from a 2009 version of the law, which only required Maryland to get to 25 percent below 2006 levels.
In response to the deaths of two Harford County Deputy Sheriffs in February, Hogan also signed a bill that increases the maximum age — from 18 to 26 — at which children of police officers killed in the line of duty can receive death benefits. It applies retroactively to the children of Mark Logsdon and Pat Dailey, whose sons were at the bill signing.
Hogan also signed a bill giving $60 million to Project Open Space over the next two fiscal years. The money will be used to fund parks and conservation projects around the state, as well as increase funding for parks in Baltimore. The city will receive $1.5 million in fiscal year 2017 and receive higher amounts each year until 2020 when the grant hits $6 million annually, and stays at $6 million for subsequent years.
A bill expanding early voting in Montgomery County and two technical bills that correct errors in other bills were also approved by the governor.
Hogan said overall the session has been a success, mostly because the budget— his top priority — passed with very little debate.
All of Hogan’s legislative goals haven’t been met, though. He mentioned redistricting reform and across-the-board income tax reductions that have passed the Senate but not the House, as two bills he’d like to see passed.
“Now that all the so-called drama and controversy is over with, the legislature should now be able to focus on some of the important business for the remainder of the session,” he said.
He echoed a complaint he has had all session: The General Assembly passes too many bills mandating spending, including for things he had already supported, like blight removal and the Prince George’s hospital.
Hogan also voiced support for the Justice Reinvestment Act, a large bill which, among other things, diverts non-violent offenders to drug treatment rather than incarceration and eliminates the differences in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine.
The House and Senate have passed their own versions of the public-safety bill, so with days left in the session, time is ticking for the two chambers to reach a compromise in a conference committee. The biggest difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill is the issue of administrative — or automatic — parole for nonviolent offenders once they have served 25 percent of their sentence.
Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore, the chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the House bill was too permissive in allowing automatic parole for certain prisoners guilty of crimes that aren’t technically “violent” like human trafficking, but who still pose a threat.
“It would be outrageous, in my opinion, to put violent offenders back out on the street,” Zirkin said.
“There’s a lot of difference between the two bills,” said Delegate Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George’s, who chairs the judiciary committee in the House. “We’re trying to get it to conference committee as soon as possible. That’s a crucial issue right now.”
The school board bill that Hogan vetoed Tuesday increases the nominating commission from 11 to 13 members.
That plan takes away the governor’s five appointments, lets the county executive choose three, and gives one nomination each to the NAACP, CASA de Maryland, The Anne Arundel Special Education Citizens’ Advisory Committee as well as one that will rotate among the county’s chambers of commerce.
It also gives the Anne Arundel County Council of Parent Teacher Associations two votes, instead of one under the current plan.
“This bill would create a panel made up almost entirely of unelected, unaccountable advocacy organizations, lobbying groups and political operatives,” Hogan said. “…This would simply be horrible policy and a terrible precedent to set.”
Hogan said he didn’t like the current system of choosing a school board — he thinks the governor should be out of the process altogether — but said this revised process is unconstitutional because it would prematurely end the terms of five members.