Veto Overrides?

Governor Hogan vetoed six bills last Friday. As a practical matter, it was four, as two of the bills were cross-files (on felon voting rights) and two were virtually identical bills on hotel tax rates (one local to Howard County and one statewide).

If the General Assembly is going to override any of Hogan’s vetoes, it needs a 60% vote of both the House of Delegates and the State Senate to do it. The Senate - where 33 Democrats ride roughshod over 14 Republicans - would probably vote to override Hogan’s menu choices for lunch. As a practical matter, any veto override fight is going to be in the House of Delegates, where 85 votes are needed for an override. There are 91 Democrats, but there are more than a few renegades, depending on the issue. And there’s not a huge amount of room for defections.

Let’s look at the four bills that were vetoed. First up, the felon voting rights bill. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill received 82 votes on third reader on the House floor. 81 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “yes” on both versions of the bill. The Republican - Keith Hornberger of Cecil County - will most likely not vote to override Hogan’s veto. That leaves Democrats searching for four votes among the 10 Dems who either didn’t vote or voted against the bill on the floor. One Democrat - James Proctor - was absent for both votes. He’s a committee vice chair and can presumably be counted on to vote to override. Prince George’s Delegate Michael Jackson did not vote on either version of the bill, despite being present. There’s a potential 83rd vote. That leaves Speaker Mike Busch looking for two more override votes from eight Dems who voted “no.”

Charlie Barkley (Montgomery), Pam Beidle (Anne Arundel), Eric Bromwell (Baltimore County), Ned Carey (Anne Arundel), Mark Chang (Anne Arundel), Mary Ann Lisanti (Harford), Ted Sophocleus (Anne Arundel), and C.T. Wilson (Charles) all voted against one or both bills. Can Busch persuade two of this crew to vote to override? My guess is he can. My guess is he’ll look to give the freshmen from potentially vulnerable single-member subdistricts (Lisanti and Carey) a pass. Bromwell and Wilson aren’t afraid to buck leadership when it suits them. Barkley, Beidle, Chang and Sophocleus will be leaned on. I’d bet Busch can get the votes.

Hogan also vetoed a bill to overhaul Maryland’s civil asset forfeiture laws. SB528 received 89 votes on the House floor, more than enough to override a veto. Only four Democrats voted against the bill, and a fifth - James Proctor again - was absent for the vote. Even if all four of the Republicans who voted for the bill defect on a veto override, there are enough Democrats to override Hogan’s veto on this bill.

The third vetoed bill was on hotel tax rates. The vote on the House floor was 84-56. No Republicans voted for the bill, while six Democrats - Beidle, Bromwell, Carey, Chang, Lisanti and Sophocleus - voted no. Once again, James Proctor was absent. So long as either Proctor or one of the “no” votes above is willing to vote to override, Hogan’s veto will not stand.

The final bill was the marijuana paraphernalia decriminalization bill. The vote on the House floor on HB519 was 83-53, with one Republican - Trent Kittleman - in favor. So Democrats need three more votes to override Hogan’s veto. Three Democrats were absent for the vote on this bill - Jim Proctor, Will Campos, and Frank Turner. There’s enough votes to override if these three all simply vote to do so. Six Dems voted no - Barkley, Beidle, Carey, Chang, Sophocleus and C.T. Wilson.

Bottom line is this: the votes are there to override Hogan’s vetoes on all of the bills he rejected. The only one that appears to need any arm-twisting at all is the bill expanding and accelerating felons’ right to vote. And even there, Speaker Busch only needs to lean on two Democrats from a pool of eight targets.

Let’s see how this goes. I’d like to see all of Hogan’s vetoes overridden.