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Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced Thursday evening that he’d vetoed the Juvenile Restoration Act, a bill to prohibit life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders.
The bill also would establish a process by which juvenile offenders may seek reconsideration of prior sentences if they were convicted as an adult and have been imprisoned for at least 20 years.
In a veto letter, Hogan said the bill “pertains to juveniles who have committed crimes so heinous that they are automatically charged as adults, including first degree murder, first degree rape, first degree sex offense, manslaughter, and certain offenses with firearms.”
“These are serious crimes that require the most serious of consequences, which is why a judge or jury sentences the individual to a lengthy determinate sentence, life imprisonment, or life imprisonment without parole,” Hogan wrote.
The bill passed the General Assembly largely along party lines with most Democrats supporting it, but was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Christopher R. West (R-Baltimore County).
Supporters argued that the offenders eligible for review under the bill will have spent more than half of their lives in prison before they would be eligible to be resentenced, and that those who commit crimes as teenagers should not be sentenced the same as adults.
The thrust of the bill, to prohibit a life without parole sentence for those sentenced as juveniles, is also needed to bring the state in line with Supreme Court precedent, supporters said.
But Hogan said the bill goes beyond what other states have done after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to sentence minors to death or mandatory life without parole sentences. Hogan also argued that the bill’s provisions would re-traumatize victims and families during sentence modification hearings.
In the veto letter, Hogan noted that he was the first governor in 24 years to parole someone serving a juvenile life sentence, which he has done nine times, in addition to four commutations.
Shortly after the veto letter was delivered to lawmakers, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said lawmakers would override the veto — as well as Hogan’s veto of a bill requiring that prevailing wages be paid to workers on more public construction projects — before the end of the legislative session.
“These two bills bring increased fairness to our procurement and criminal justice systems. I am confident the General Assembly will override these vetoes before we adjourn Sine Die,” Ferguson said in a statement.
The prevailing wage measure would have required government-funded construction projects to pay prevailing wages on contracts over $250,000 or when at least 25% of a project’s construction costs are from state funds; current law sets those thresholds at $500,000 and 50%.
The Juvenile Restoration Act and changes to the prevailing wage law were among more than a dozen bills that the General Assembly passed and presented to the governor during the legislative session, triggering a Constitutional provision that requires him to act before the session is scheduled to end Monday.
Both measures passed the House of Delegates and Senate chambers along party-line votes, and with enough support to override the vetoes.
Hogan allowed eleven bills passed this legislative session to take effect without his signature:
- HB590 – Capital Budget;
- HB745 – Election Law – Early Voting Centers;
- SB433 – Institutions of Higher Education – State Funding – Revision;
- HB907/SB817 – Unemployment Insurance – Study on System Reforms;
- HB908/SB816 – Unemployment Insurance – Employer Contributions and Reimbursement Payments;
- HB1002 – Unemployment – Insurance Revisions and Special Enrollment Period for Health Benefits;
- HB1138/SB818 – Unemployment Insurance – Maryland Department of Labor – Accountability and Oversight;
- HB1139/SB819 – Unemployment Insurance – Weekly Benefit Amount – Income Disregard;
- HB1143/SB771 – Unemployment Insurance – Work Sharing;
- SB683 – Election Law – Voting – Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports; and
- SB893 – Unemployment – Insurance Revisions and Special Enrollment Period for Health Benefits.