WASHINGTON — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan kicked off the weekly Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis by vetoing the bill that would take oversight authority, including over school construction and improvements, out of the hands of the board and transfer it to a commission made up of appointees.
Sitting at a table in the State House between fellow board members Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Hogan tore into the bill, one he said had been rushed through the legislature. He called it a horrible bill and warned lawmakers anticipating a veto, “Anyone who votes to override this veto will be voting against transparency, against accountability in education, against fiscal responsibility and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Marylanders.”
The governor vetoed the bill on the spot, taking out a red marker and putting a big X mark across the document. An audible thump was heard as he put a state stamp on the bill. He held it up so that cameras could capture the image.
Comptroller Franchot chimed in, saying, “Governor, with your permission, maybe I could sign that as a witness.” The governor responded “That’d be great!” Franchot took up a pen and said, “I’m going to put underneath it, ‘For the people.’”
As the attendees in the room applauded, Kopp, the third member of the board, said “I understand the applause; I applaud at theater too.”
She then criticized the comptroller for calling out lawmakers by name in his remarks. Noting that the legislation proposes shifting oversight of school construction funding out of the hands of the board, she reminded the governor that the bill proposes a new Interagency Commission and that Hogan would have the authority to name the majority of the members of that board.
She finished her remarks by saying, “I just wish we could cut the theater and get back to work.”
The debate on the 21st Century School Facilities Act was put on a fast track through the House and Senate. There was debate over the speed with which the bill moved within the legislature, even as lawmakers praised some of the elements in the bill. Sen. Justin Ready, a Republican from Carroll County, told his colleagues during the debate that there were a number of good ideas in the bill, but he was concerned “we’re taking away an important part of transparency and accountability” in the school spending oversight process.
Alexandra Hughes, spokeswoman for House Speaker Mike Busch, said there are enough votes in the House for an override. In the Senate, 29 members voted in favor of the bill — exactly the number needed.
The General Assembly session ends Monday.