Welcome to the new year and a time of immediate confrontation between Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and the state's General Assembly.

As soon as the 2016 legislature convenes on Jan. 13, bills vetoed by Hogan in May will be the first order of business.


While this matter could be put off for a couple of days or weeks, Democratic leaders want to send a strong, early message to Republican Hogan by overriding some of those vetoes.

These bills are not earth-shattering. Yet in terms of State House politics, Democrats are determined to let Hogan know he could be treated rudely unless he works cooperatively with lawmakers.

None of the vetoed bills has a direct impact on Baltimore County. However, Reisterstown and Owings Mills residents who book hotel rooms online could pay more if one of those vetoes is overridden.

Lawmakers passed a bill last year that forces online hotel booking companies to pay a tax on the service fees they charge. Advocates claim it is wrong for online companies to avoid paying this state tax.

Hogan vetoed the bill because the state comptroller's office is suing the online hotel booking companies over this issue. Let's allow the courts to decide, Hogan said, rather than imposing a new tax prematurely.

That seems to make perfect sense — except in a highly partisan political world like the Annapolis State House. Legislative Democrats and the Republican governor are in a tug of war over who has the upper hand.

Hogan's logic for vetoing other bills makes sense, too, but some are likely to be overturned by the General Assembly.

One vetoed bill would allow 40,000 ex-felons to vote in elections even though they have not completed the parole portion of their sentences. Hogan feels that is unfair. Democratic legislators believe that giving these individuals voting rights helps re-integrate them into society.

It's a tough call, but it seems likely House Speaker Mike Busch and Senate President Mike Miller have the votes to upset Hogan's veto.

Similarly, Hogan rejected a bill to allow people to smoke marijuana in public places without fear of being charged with a criminal offense. Hogan said the proposal creates "legal uncertainties" for police officers, especially if a smoker is behind the wheel of a car and is driving dangerously. Can that individual be arrested for driving while intoxicated?

Hogan also vetoed a bill that would restrict prosecutors from seizing cash and property in many criminal cases. Hogan worries that doing so would rob law enforcement of a valuable tool in drug investigations.

He wants to set up a work group to review the forfeiture rules to determine if this change can be made without interfering with police probes of serious crime.

When the votes are taken on these vetoed bills, Hogan might become the victim of his own self-imposed isolation. He has failed to build bridges with Democratic leaders. He has gone his own way rather than seeking common ground.

Now Democrats are getting ready to strike back. They want the governor to work more closely with them instead of striking out on his own, like the Lone Ranger.


Hogan's actions have proved very popular with citizens, based on poll numbers. But it is hard to govern successfully over the long haul unless Maryland's chief executive extends an olive branch to the co-equal branch of government, the General Assembly.

We are about to witness a most interesting 90-day legislative session that could tell us much about Maryland's Republican governor.

Barry Rascovar, of Reisterstown, writes a blog at www.politicalmaryland.com, and can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.