Maryland General Assembly overrides Hogan's veto of oyster sanctuary bill, voting in honor of late speaker

The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to reject Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of an oyster sanctuary bill that was a priority of the late House Speaker Michael Busch, voting in honor of the longtime state leader.

The vote assured the General Assembly’s override of the Republican governor, putting into law permanent protection of five oyster sanctuaries around the Chesapeake Bay. The House voted to override Hogan on Friday.

Busch proposed the bill to stop discussions among the Hogan administration and watermen to potentially allow periodic harvesting of sanctuaries in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank, Manokin, St. Mary’s and Tred Avon rivers. Watermen say occasional dredging can help oysters reproduce, but scientists and environmentalists say that isn’t accurate.

Busch died Sunday of pneumonia, a day before the General Assembly was to adjourn its regular 2019 session. The Anne Arundel Democrat was 72.

Hogan vetoed the bill last week hours before it would have become law without his signature. He accused General Assembly leaders of circumventing what he described as a productive process to develop state oyster policy.

Busch responded by criticizing the governor for supporting increased federal funding for the Chesapeake while rejecting a policy to help the estuary’s recovery.

The Chesapeake oyster population is at less than 1 percent of its historic levels. The mollusks are important elements of the bay ecosystem, creating habitat and filtering out contaminants in the water.

In calling for the override vote, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller urged lawmakers to support the bill in Busch’s name. Twenty-nine senators voted to reject Hogan’s veto, the minimum number needed for an override.

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