Maryland General Assembly overrides Gov. Hogan vetoes of 5 bills, including “ban the box” legislation

The Maryland General Assembly voted Thursday to override five bills vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan, including a measure that prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about any criminal history on job applications.

Lawmakers voted largely along party lines ― 31-15 in the state Senate and 95-43 in the House of Delegates ― to override Hogan’s veto of legislation to expand the state’s Dream Act, which allows students who are undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates for college, and abolish a Handgun Permit Review Board. The board had a history of overruling Maryland State Police decisions, which resulted in more people legally carrying handguns.

State Sen. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, was the lead sponsor of the “ban the box” legislation, which will limit when employers can discuss a job applicant’s criminal record. Carter spoke Thursday in favor of the veto override, arguing it’s important to help people re-entering the work force after time in prison or jail. If an ex-offender isn’t ruled out before an interview, he or she has a better chance to land a job and contribute to society, Carter said.

“It’s good for Maryland’s economy,” Carter said. “It’s good for public safety. It’s a common-sense bill.”

Del. Nick Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House, said people shouldn’t have a “scarlet letter” that keeps them from finding gainful employment. “This is critical, this is sensible, this has been bipartisan all throughout the entire country,” he said.

Republicans argued the bill only wastes the time of employers who can’t ask about criminal records until later in the job application process.

“I agree we need jobs,” Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Harford County Republican, countered. “Where I disagree is whether this is a good vehicle for that.”

The Senate took up the Dream Act expansion legislation first Thursday morning. It eliminated a requirement that undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children would have to go to community college first before receiving in-state tuition at a four-year university.

“This is about opportunity,” said Sen. Malcolm Augustine, a Prince George’s County Democrat. “This is about the best and the brightest reaching their potential.”

“Really through no fault of their own, they’re breaking immigration law,” Ready said. “It’s not right. It’s basically saying we’re going to let people who are in this country come … and get in-state tuition.”

  • Update the state’s Dream Act, which allows students who are undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates for college. Previously, the law required those students to attend community college first; now they can directly enroll at a four-year university and pay in-state rates.
  • Prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about criminal history on job applications, a measure known as “ban the box.”
  • Eliminate the Handgun Permit Review Board, which heard appeals from Maryland State Police decisions on applicants who sought permits to carry handguns. The board was criticized for being too lenient. State administrative judges will now hear appeals.
  • Create a system for making decisions about Chesapeake Bay oyster harvesting rules. The goal is to bring together regulators, watermen, scientists and environmentalists to make “consensus” decisions about oysters, which are an important harvest and a key part of the ecology of the bay and its rivers.
  • Expand grievance procedures for certain state employees, allowing some complaints to be taken to state administrative judges.

Hogan won three victories, as lawmakers did not override his veto of a bill that would have required two-person crews on freight trains passing through the state and elected not to override legislation that would have put additional restrictions and reporting requirements on the governor’s appointment powers.

Lawmakers also decided not to override a veto of legislation to fund the state Bikeways Network Program and add required elements to the Central Maryland Regional Transit Plan. Democratic leaders said Hogan put money for the bike projects in his budget, so the legislation was no longer needed.

In the House, Republicans argued at length that lawmakers should allow the board to continue to exist, calling it a long-standing and necessary part of the permitting process. But Democrats said the board had become politicized, with governors appointing members aligned with their views about guns.

Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Howard County Democrat, said it would be better for state administrative judges to hear appeals in an “unbiased, nonpolitical manner.” Atterbeary said eliminating the board will “take politics out of the decisions of who should, in the state of Maryland, carry a weapon on them at all times.”

Hogan objected to the oyster legislation, arguing the new process will mean state regulators can’t implement “thoughtful and science-based management practices” for at least two years under the “cumbersome” system.

*story by The Baltimore Sun