From State Sen. J.B. Jennings:
Last week the issue front and center for the legislature was the overriding of Governor Hogan’s vetoes.
Last session, the legislature passed 692 pieces of legislation. Governor Hogan carefully reviewed all of the legislation and vetoed 197 bills. 191 of these bills were procedural overrides due to the bills being duplicated in both the Senate and House Chambers. The remaining 6 vetoes were based off of policy that the Governor did not support.
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. A three-fifths vote of the elected membership of both chambers is necessary to override a veto.
I, along with several of my Senate colleagues, fought to override the vetoes. The Democrats have overridden several of these vetoes, which now makes them law.
The bills overridden are as follows:
– Decriminalize paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana, and also decriminalize marijuana smoking in public. When possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was decriminalized in 2014, possession of marijuana paraphernalia remained a misdemeanor. In my opinion, the legal inconsistency should have been corrected. It is a crime to drink alcohol in public or while driving, therefore I believe it should also be a crime to smoke marijuana in public or while driving and should be specifically spelled out in the law. Those who opposed the veto pointed out that smoking marijuana in public or while driving is already against the law and a separate provision in the law is not necessary. Although, I voted to uphold the veto, it was overridden.
– A new tax on online booking services on companies such as; Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz. Currently, all hotels pay Maryland state sales tax. Currently, Governor Hogan vetoed this bill because it changed the current law of customers paying sales tax on the price they paid for the room. I was in agreement with Governor Hogan. Additionally, another vetoed bill dealt with hotel taxes in Howard County. Both of the Governor’s vetoes were overridden.
– Restrict police from seizing criminal assets of cash or items worth up to $300 when making drug crime arrests of street level dealers. Suppliers give these low-level dealers only small amounts of drugs costing from $10 to $100 to sell. When they sell those small amounts they take the money back to the supplier and are given another small amount to sell. They rarely have more than $300 on them at any given time. The vetoed bill allowed seizure without charges or a conviction being brought against the suspect. The bill also restricts Maryland police from acting on information received from other state or federal law enforcement agencies to intercept drug money. I voted to uphold the Governor’s veto, although it was overridden. Already, new legislation has been introduced to prohibit seizure of assets unless the suspected criminal is convicted.
– Appropriate $2 million for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. The original request from the Creative Arts was for $500,000. The legislature mysteriously added an additional $1.5 million that was not originally requested in the last days of session. I believe that giving the full $2 million for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis would not allow funds to be distributed to other projects around the State. This veto was overridden.
– On February 5th, the ex-felon veto will be on the Senate floor for a vote. The veto would allow 40,000 ex-felons to vote before their parole, probation or house arrest expires. State law already allows ex-felons to vote, but not until their parole, probation or house arrest expires. Two bills were approved to let ex-felons vote early. Hogan vetoed both. It should be noted that 40% of inmates released from prison will re-offend or otherwise return to prison. I will vote to uphold the Governor’s veto.
Please do not hesitate to contact me about these or any other issues of concern to you. Your input is important to me. I encourage and welcome it.