Maryland Gov. Hogan vetoes bill to overhaul school construction approval process, draws criticism from treasurer

Gov. Larry Hogan pulled out a stamp and a red marker Wednesday to veto a bill that would overhaul the state process for vetting and approving the construction and renovation of schools.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat who has no veto authority, nonetheless joined the Republican governor in signing the veto at the weekly meeting of the Board of Public Works. Both men had sharp words for lawmakers who might be considering an override of the veto.

“I can only assume that some legislators maybe had no idea what they were voting for when their party leaders forced them to pass this horrible bill,” Hogan said. “Let me be very, very clear: Anyone who votes to override this veto will be voting against transparency, against accountability in education, against fiscal responsibility and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Marylanders.”

State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat who works with Franchot and Hogan to consider school projects as the third member of the Board of Public Works, criticized her colleagues for what she called “kabuki theater.”

“I understand why you had to veto it today,” Kopp said. “I just wish we could cut the theater and get back to work.”

The bill would take authority over school construction away from the Board of Public Works and give it the Interagency Committee on School Construction. That advisory panel would be renamed the Interagency Commission and grow in size to include five appointees of the governor, two of the House speaker and two of the Senate president.

Lawmakers rushed the legislation through the House and Senate last week, expressing concern that Franchot and Hogan were using the process as a political tool to prioritize air conditioning projects over the priorities of local school officials. Some contend the two officials have humiliated superintendents who have appeared before the board.

“Professional people shouldn’t have to come down here on hands and knees begging for schools,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said.

Lawmakers sent the bill to Hogan on Thursday so that his deadline for signing or vetoing it would pass before the legislature adjourns April 9, giving lawmakers a chance at a veto override before they go home for the year.

The Senate passed the bill with 29 votes, the minimum required to override a veto. Miller said Wednesday he didn’t know whether he could muster that many on an override vote.

Kopp said she supports the current process for school construction, as long as it isn’t used as a political weapon. But she said the lawmakers’ proposal “could work out to be a very good thing.”

“I think that this system that we have now could work well, but it hasn’t,” Kopp said.

Hogan made light of her comments.

“I appreciate your opinion,” he said. “I feel bad that they made you say things like that. I know that you don’t believe it.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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