Governor Vetoes Multiple Police/Corrections Bills

Governor Hogan issued a veto of four bills passed during the 2021 General Assembly session, calling two of them “Sanctuary” measures, and citing policy concerns with the others.

The Governor’s veto means that the General Assembly must take the bills up at their next convening, and decide whether to vote to override the veto and enact the bills notwithstanding his objections. All but one of the bills passed with the requisite votes to clear that hurdle (meaning if the legislators remain committed to their previous position, the override will pass), but one bill (to decriminalize the possession of various drug paraphernalia) fell short of that supermajority by one vote in its final Senate vote.

From the Governor’s press release, his views on each bill and a link to the formal veto message:

House Bill 16 – Correctional Services – Immigration Detention – Prohibition
House Bill 23 – Personal Information – State and Local Agencies – Restrictions on Access
“Local law enforcement should fully cooperate with federal law enforcement—a principle I have consistently upheld throughout three federal administrations led by presidents from both political parties. Flawed legislation such as this sets a dangerous precedent regarding the state’s commitment to upholding the law and ensuring the safety of our citizens. … As governor, I believe in creating an inclusive and diverse Maryland, which is why our administration has consistently welcomed refugees who the federal government has determined are properly and legally seeking refugee status and have been adequately vetted. By promoting diversity and inclusion for all while upholding our commitment to public safety, Maryland’s approach is consistent with both our laws and our values.” Read the veto message.

Senate Bill 420 – Criminal Law – Drug Paraphernalia for Administration – Decriminalization
“SB 420 is a dangerous bill that completely erases the illegality of certain controlled dangerous substance paraphernalia by legalizing the delivery, sale, manufacturing, and possession of these dangerous and damaging items. This is an ill-advised policy change that does nothing to remove drug dealers from our streets or reduce opioid-related fatalities, and instead encourages the use and possession of paraphernalia associated with drug use. If enacted, this bill would permit drug dealers to stockpile large quantities of paraphernalia, such as needles and syringes, and sell it to vulnerable individuals suffering from addiction.” Read the veto message.

Senate Bill 202 – Correctional Services – Life Imprisonment – Parole
“As a firm believer in rehabilitative justice, I agree that all individuals serving life sentences with the possibility of parole deserve to be meaningfully considered for parole. I also recognize that each of the crimes that these individuals committed includes a victim and a family that had their lives forever altered by the actions of another. I have an obligation to ensure the safety of all Marylanders, and including the governor in the parole process provides an important check on the Maryland Parole Commission, especially since the individuals who are sent to me for consideration have committed truly horrendous crimes, including first degree murder, rape, and sexual assault.” Read the veto message.

MACo had opposed HB 16, as originally introduced, arguing that the management of local detention facilities should remain a local matter.

More on the local jails matter here from Baltimore Sun coverage:

County governments have been under increasing pressure from residents to end their jail contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, a Democrat, announced he would end that county’s jail agreement just as the bill gained momentum during the final weeks of the legislative session this spring.

And officials in Worcester County — which has gotten more than half of its jail budget from a federal immigration contract — have said they know the days of such contracts were numbered. More than two dozen jail jobs could be lost there as a result.

Read more coverage on the vetoes in the Baltimore Sun.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties