Maryland Senate delays veto overrides, but House to push ahead

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
Maryland House plans to act on veto overrides tomorrow, with the Senate to follow Thursday.

Although the Maryland Senate delayed until Thursday a vote on whether to override Gov. Larry Hogan's vetoes, the House of Delegates still plans to push forward on Wednesday as scheduled.

The House will attempt to override vetoes of measures that would reinstate felons' voting rights earlier, change how certain hotel taxes are collected and send $2 million to an Annapolis arts center.

More symbolically, the veto override effort is the first substantial action and political confrontation in the recently-convened legislative session. The debate could set a rancorous tone for remainder of the lawmaking season.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch's spokeswoman, Alexandra Hughes, would not comment on whether the chamber had the requisite 85 votes to reverse the governor's actions. But she said the speaker doesn't normally bring things to the floor unless he has the votes to pass it. 

Two of the six bills Maryland's Republican governor vetoed last year began in the House, as did the measure to fund the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Four others began in the Senate: another version of the felon voting rights law and hotel tax collection law, plus a bill that puts new limits on seizing assets during criminal investigations and another that would make possessing marijuana paraphernalia a civil offense, not a crime.

Each chamber would need to override the vetoes by a three-fifths majority, which translates to 85 votes in the House and 29 in the Senate. 

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told senators Tuesday that the vote on veto overrides would be postponed until Thursday because some members have medical appointments Wednesday.

Miller said he intends to vote for all of the overrides scheduled to come up in that chamber.

Steering clear of direct criticism of Hogan, whom Miller considers a personal friend and political opponent, Miller charged that the governor’s staff was spreading misinformation about the vetoed legislation.

The Senate president vowed to press forward with a bill backed by Marriott Corp. that changed the way hotel stays are taxed when booked through a third-party company such as Expedia or Travelocity. Hogan vetoed the legislation, saying the matter was under litigation and the state should wait for the courts.

Miller said he supports the legislation “despite hired guns” brought in to lobby against the override – including two of his former chiefs of staff.

While he predicted that veto would be overridden, he said another measure allowing felons to vote once they’ve been released from incarceration – instead of having to wait for their parole or probation to expire – is in more doubt. 

Two versions of that measure cleared the Senate, once by 32 votes and once by 29. Since then, one lawmaker who voted for both versions retired and her seat remains vacant.

“It doesn’t poll well,” Miller said.

But Miller defended the legislation, saying former felons had served their time.

“Are they citizens or are they not?” he said. “It’s about human beings coming back into society.”

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