Md. House of Delegates overrides 2 Hogan vetoes

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates voted Thursday to override both of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes this session, a move that reflects the sometimes-tense relations between the Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

Last week, Hogan vetoed a Democratic plan that would score transportation projects in order to decide which to fund, and Tuesday he vetoed a proposal to change the composition of the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission.

The Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 requires the state’s Department of Transportation to score proposed major projects based on factors including their safety and security, economic benefit, cost effectiveness and local priorities.

Some Republican lawmakers opposed the bill and the override, saying the act takes some authority away from local governments, favors more populous counties over less populous counties and is politically motivated.

In a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the bill earlier this session, sponsor Delegate Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, said the legislation was not a “reckless power grab” or “knee jerk reaction” to the Red Line or Purple Line as some had suggested.

In June, Hogan canceled plans to build a “Red Line” light rail in Baltimore, and cut state funding for the Purple Line, a 16.2-mile light rail system that would connect Bethesda to New Carrollton. The latter, now a $5.6 billion public-private partnership, was approved on Wednesday by the Board of Public Works.

Delegate Brooke Lierman, D-Baltimore, argued that the state’s secretary of transportation would retain discretion over which projects to fund and how to weigh the different factors. The bill would simply make the decision process more transparent and objective, she said.

“Your constituents and my constituents can look at a project, and see its score, see how well it did versus other projects and have confidence that those were the right decisions,” Lierman said.

The bill does allow the Department of Transportation to fund a project with a lower score over a project with a higher score if the agency provides a rational basis for the decision.

“The transportation bill is a transparency bill,” Beidle said Thursday. “Who doesn’t want … open transparency in transportation?”

Delegate Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, said this bill would not improve transparency — noting that the state Senate did not hold a public hearing on the bill and the Department of Transportation was not adequately involved — but rather is an act of political retribution.

“Shame on us for allowing this kind of partisanship to exist here in this chamber,” Kipke said. “We are not Washington, D.C. We are one Maryland. We are better than this.”

He added that the current project allocation system has been working for decades.

Delegate Haven Shoemaker, R-Carroll, said the act was one of many bills this session “calculated to usurp the authority of the governor,” and that overriding the governor’s veto would be a “horrendous mistake.”

“In the pantheon of bad legislation I’ve seen, I think this bill ranks right up there,” he said.

Shoemaker added that the governor is ultimately accountable not to the legislature but to the people of the state, who “seem to really like the job that he’s doing.”

According to a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, about two-thirds of Marylanders approve of Hogan’s performance.

“As the kids say, don’t hate the player, hate the game,” Shoemaker said. “And don’t change the rules of the game in the middle of it.”

Voting largely along party lines, the House overrode the governor’s veto, 88-52.

The House on Thursday also overrode by a vote of 90-50 the governor’s veto of a bill that would change the composition of the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission.

The bill would increase the number of members on the commission from 11 to 13, taking away the governor’s five appointments, letting the county executive choose three, and giving one nomination each to the NAACP and CASA de Maryland.

Hogan said Tuesday this change would unconstitutionally end the term of his appointees.

Supporters say the bill is an effort to increase the diversity of the commission in a county where 40 percent of students are minorities, but, again, Republicans say the bill is a form of political payback.

“I think it’s very important that that commission represent our population,” Beidle said Thursday.

The state Senate will likely vote on the overrides Friday, said Jake Weissmann, deputy chief of staff to Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr.

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