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Consideration of Vetoes Update Part 2

This week, Red Maryland has followed the Maryland General Assembly’s consideration of seven vetoed bills from the 2015 session. Tuesday, we told you what to expect in the House of Delegates, and yesterday, we reported on what to expect in the State Senate.

Here is a full update on where each bill stands:

HB 71 (Capital Budget): Overridden by 92-49 in the House and 32-14 in the Senate.

HB 209 (Room Rental Tax): Overridden by 90-51 in the House and 32-14 in the Senate.

HB 980 (Ex-Felon voting): Overridden by 85-56 in the House and Special Ordered until February 5, 2016 by the Senate (see SB 340 below).

SB 190 (Room Rental Tax): Overridden by 30-16 in the Senate and 89-52 in the House.

SB 340  (Ex-Felon Voting): Special Ordered until February 5, 2016 by the Senate (see HB 980 above).

SB 517 (Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia De-criminalization): Overridden by 29-17 in the Senate and 86-55 in the House.

SB 528 (Seizure and Forfeiture): Overridden by 32-14 in the Senate and 89-52 in the House.

 

Analysis

Five of the seven vetoes have been overridden, representing a show of force by the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate against the Governor.

In the House of Delegates, the minimum to override a veto is 85 votes. Only the HB 980 (Ex-Felon Voting) and SB 517 (Marijuana) came close to this number. We do not have the official vote list because it has not yet been made public. However, a handful of Democrats voted to uphold the vetoes.

We do have an unofficial copy of the vote for SB 190 in the House. Last year, the vote was 84-56, which would have not met the threshold to override a veto. Today, the override passed 89-52. Democrat Delegates who were against last year but voted to override: Freshman Mark Chang (32-Anne Arundel), Freshman Mary Ann Lisanti (34A-Harford), Pamela Beidle (32-Anne Arundel), Theodore Sophocleus (32-Anne Arundel). Delegate Proctor was absent during the vote last year and voted to override the veto.

In the State Senate, three-fifths is 29 votes. Only SB 517 (Marijuana) came close to this number, but discussion on SB 340/HB 980 (Ex-Felon Voting) was ordered to be delayed for two weeks. This represents a lack of support to reach the necessary threshold. Originally, SB 340 passed by 29 votes and HB 980 passed with 32, which is a gain of three votes between the bills.

At some point, three or more of the Senators switched their votes to oppose. It is possible that the opposition to an override now includes the three that originally switched to support for HB 980: Freshman Republican Robert Salling (6-Baltimore), Republican Gail Bates (9-Carroll and Howard), and Democrat Deputy Majority Leader Kathy Klausmeier (8-Baltimore).

 

Unresolved Constitutional Issues

Another question not yet addressed is if the State Senate can postpone a discussion until February. The Maryland Manual states: “If the Governor vetoes a bill presented after the session, the veto message must be considered immediately at the next regular or special session of the legislature.”

Maryland Constitution Article II, Section 17 states: “If the Governor approves he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it with his objections to the House in which it originated, which House shall enter the objections at large on its Journal and proceed to reconsider the Bill.”

The plain language of “proceed to reconsider” suggests an immediate consideration, which in legislative terms, would allow for some postponement, including a date within the first ten days of the session. However, a postponement to February 5, 2016 would bring the issue to the 24th day of session, which is more than 25% into the 90 Day Session. It is unclear if an override passed at such a late period would be deemed unconstitutional.

Additionally, Section 17 reads: “The votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. ”

The refusal of the House of Delegates and the State Senate to make public the official vote list, not just the vote count, goes against the spirit of this provision. The names, and not just the number, have to be included on the official, public record according to the Constitution. The electronic nature of the votes should allow for the count to be made public immediately.

This inaction suggests that the votes are being withheld to minimize any potential for the public to discuss with their legislators their vote to support or oppose an override due to some of the more controversial bills having a counter part bill that must also be heard.

We will continue to follow the pending veto override and provide updates as the matter unfolds.






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