Maryland Gov. Hogan pledged to send Labor Day school start to referendum if necessary. How does that work?

As legislators are challenging Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that forced public schools to open after Labor Day, Hogan promised he would send the measure to referendum for Maryland voters to decide if necessary.

But that can only happen if he collects signatures from more than 69,000 Maryland voters petitioning to have the question listed on the ballot in 2020.

Hogan signed an executive order in 2016 requiring public schools in the state to begin classes after Labor Day and end by June 15 starting in the 2017-2018 school year. A bill sponsored by Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D- Prince George’s County) would allow county school boards to instead determine their own start and end dates for academic years, and authorize those boards to extend the length of school years up to five days beyond the current June 15 cut-off.

The bill passed its second reading in the Senate on Friday.

If the bill is approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, Hogan vowed to submit a bill that would make school boards that want to start classes earlier seek the approval of voters.

Here’s how referendums work:

In order for citizens to put a question on the ballot, a petition must be filed with the Maryland Secretary of State with the signatures of at least 3 percent of the state’s registered voters, a figure calculated based of the number of votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. In 2018, 2,302,699 people voted in Maryland’s gubernatorial election, so Hogan would have to gather 69,081 signatures.

At least a third of those signatures must be submitted to the secretary of state before before June 1, with the rest due by June 30.

If the question goes to a vote and is approved by voters during the general election, it becomes effective 30 days from the vote.

Maryland voters have had the power of referendum since 1916. It’s one of 27 states whose constitutions give voters the power of referendum, initiative (allowing voters to bypass legislators to create a law) or both, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

smeehan@baltsun.com

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