In combative language, Hogan vetoes five bills passed by Maryland General Assembly

Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed five bills, accusing the legislature of meddling where it doesn't belong.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed five bills Friday, characterizing some as meddling by the General Assembly and dismissing another as a tax.

Three of the vetoes reject plans to increase oversight of the state's mass transit agency, raise money to replace the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge in Southern Maryland and increase the amount of electricity derived from renewable sources such as the sun or wind.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, declined to comment. Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch, said the speaker will talk with House Democratic leaders and Miller before deciding whether to attempt to overturn the vetoes when the Assembly reconvenes in January.

Hogan faced a Saturday deadline to veto about 100 bills or let them become law without his signature. Measures becoming law will allow Baltimore voters to elect two members of the city school board and create protections aimed at preventing lead-poisoning victims from being bilked out of legal settlements.

The governor's veto messages took a combative tone.

He called the bill to create an oversight board for the Maryland Transit Administration a "sophomoric attack" and a "politically driven" attempt "to second-guess the authority" of his administration.

A housing bill would have given the Hillen Road Improvement Association veto power over Morgan State University student housing in a block of Hillenwood Road. Hogan called it "an improper and unwarranted interference" by lawmakers, most of whom "have little or no understanding of the interplay among community associations in Baltimore."

Hogan said the legislature's "regrettable" bill that would force the state to put aside money to replace the Nice Bridge intrudes on the authority of the Maryland Transportation Authority. He wrote that such legislation would allow lawmakers using "raw political muscle instead of unbiased professional judgment" to pick which projects move forward.

The state has already invested more than $61 million in figuring out how to replace the 76-year-old bridge between Charles County and Virginia, Hogan said, calling the legislation "entirely unnecessary."

Sen. Thomas M. "Mac" Middleton, the Finance Committee chairman who sponsored the Nice Bridge bill, said he will push for an override of Hogan's veto.

"Prior to his coming to office, this was the top priority of the Maryland Transportation Authority," said Middleton, a Charles County Democrat. "I just need some assurances this is going to continue to be the No. 1 priority."

Another vetoed bill would have increased the state's goal for the use of renewable energy. Customers' electricity bills would have increased as a result.

"This legislation is a tax increase that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland and, for that reason alone, I cannot allow it to become law," Hogan wrote.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, the Democratic nominee to become Baltimore's next mayor. It would have required the state to get a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, two years sooner than the current target to reach 20 percent.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat who co-sponsored the renewable energy bill, said the veto ignores the long-term costs of reliance on fossil fuels. He said Maryland is a leader in achieving renewable energy goals — a notion that Hogan noted in his veto letter — "because we've taken the long view."

"If we don't continue along that path, we'll no longer be a national leader," Pinsky said. He said the bill would have added no more than $1 to $1.50 to a typical monthly household bill.

Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the MTA oversight bill that Hogan called "sophomoric," said she was "surprised and frankly appalled by his sort of verbally abusive veto letter."

"I'm very frustrated by the governor's veto because I believe it represents another blow to the people who live in the greater Baltimore area who rely on or want to ride and take public transportation," she said.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said she was "baffled" by Hogan's veto.

"We're the only major transit agency in the country, we believe, without some kind of oversight board that helps solve problems, identify needs, give voice to riders and help build a stronger transit system," she said.

Hogan has been judicious in his use of vetoes — issuing six last year and one earlier this year — but the Democratic-controlled legislature has overturned every one.

By law, the General Assembly is required to take up attempts to override the five vetoes as soon as it reconvenes in January. A three-fifths vote of both chambers in the legislature is needed to override a gubernatorial veto. Most of the bills passed by veto-proof margins; if the same lawmakers who voted for the measures this year do so again next year, the bills would become law.

The exception is the MTA oversight bill, which received 26 votes in the Senate; 29 are needed to overturn a veto.

Bills expected to become law without Hogan's signature would modestly expand the state's preschool program, extend hours at Baltimore libraries, restrict the sale of pesticides that harm bees and expand state grants to help pay for portable classrooms.

New laws would also make permanent a temporary tax break for yacht owners and grant full voting rights to a student member of the Montgomery County school board. The bill would make Montgomery's student member the second in the nation with such rights; Anne Arundel County's is the other. Also, a law dubbed the Java Act would allow some disabled students to sell coffee in schools.

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Hogan's vetoes

Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed five bills Friday. Here's what they would have done and why the governor didn't like them:

MTA board: Granted a citizen panel oversight of the state transit administration, now exclusively under the governor's purview. Proponents said it would make the system more responsive to the public; Hogan derided it as a power grab.

Morgan student housing: Prohibited redevelopment of Baltimore's Northwood Shopping Center into student housing unless a neighborhood association approved. Proponents argued that it would protect surrounding neighborhoods; Hogan said the legislature doesn't belong in local zoning issues.

Harry W. Nice Bridge: Required the state to set aside money to replace the 76-year-old bridge in Southern Maryland. Proponents said Hogan's toll cuts left little money to replace the bridge; Hogan said lawmakers should not decide which projects get funded.

Renewable energy standard: Required more of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources and sped up the deadline to meet that goal. Proponents said it would help reduce greenhouse gases and spur jobs in the "green" economy. Hogan called it a tax on electricity users.

Education collaborative: Created a panel to come up with ideas to reduce the achievement gap between rich and poor students. Hogan said having two state lawmakers on a board that sets policy and enters contracts violates the separation of executive and legislative powers.

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