Larry Hogan vetoes bills to help tenants, voters and unions

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed 18 bills late Friday, including legislation that would have let voters fix mistakes on mail-in ballots, provide tax breaks to union members and stave off eviction for tenants awaiting rental assistance.

In the final legislative action of his two-term tenure, Hogan also upended measures forbidding debt collectors from sending people to jail and forcing the state to make low-income housing energy-efficient.

The decisions cap a General Assembly season that also cornered Hogan into taking positions on abortion access, gun control, paid family leave and legalizing marijuana, a suite of liberal policy priorities the Democratic-controlled legislature sent to his desk this spring.

Vetoes a test for Republican governor with national ambitions

Hogan vetoed all of those, except for legislation regulating ghost guns that takes effect next week. But while the legislature overrode Hogan on vetoes he issued this spring, the General Assembly has no opportunity to reverse the vetoes issued after they adjourned in April.

Some Democrats who had championed proposals that Hogan vetoed Friday accused the governor of putting his potential presidential ambition ahead of policies he agreed were good for Maryland voters. Hogan is weighing a presidential bid in 2024.

“Wow, if you want to see some real Repub presidential politics at work, the Guv vetoed a bill he says has ‘positive changes to State election law’ because it did not also address other election matters,” Del. Marc A. Korman (D-Montgomery) wrote on Twitter.

Hogan vetoed an election bill that would give voters a chance to sign mail-in ballots if they forgot to do so before dropping it off, allowing those votes to be counted.

In his veto message, Hogan praised that provision as well as others that let election officials start canvassing mail-in ballots early and report results from those ballots precinct by precinct. But Hogan, who offered no election security legislation this year, said he vetoed the bill because it did not also include a signature verification process.

“Maximizing voter participation and providing citizens with accessible and convenient ways to cast their ballots is vital to a healthy democracy,” Hogan wrote. “Just as equally vital, however, are election security and voter confidence… for even the appearance of impropriety or the opportunity for fraud can be enough to undermine citizens’ confidence in their electoral system. ”

Election results in close races could be delayed if a large number of voters cast ballots by mail, since election officials may not start counting them until after the polls close.

Hogan has traveled nationally – and internationally – this year as he raises his political profile. The governor has said he will not announce his decision until after his term ends in January. His spokesperson said the legislature passes hundreds of bills, often at the last minute, and the governor is constitutionally obligated to veto those he believes are misguided.

“This use of checks and balances often leads to a bizarre lashing out by legislators, who express great offense that the governor does not agree with every single thing they do and say — or they just call him names,” Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said in an email. “We can and should have policy disagreements without impugning each other’s motives.”

Hogan vetoed a bill that would allow union members to deduct union dues from their taxable state income, saying that it afforded “unfair advantage to unions and activists.”

On the tenant-rights bill, Hogan said that Maryland already has some of the nation’s strongest tenant protections. Forbidding evictions when tenants had pending applications for rental assistance programs, he said “will do little to help tenants and will make it harder for small and family-owned property owners to stay in business.”

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