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From Left, John P. Comer, lead organizer for MD Communities United (Black Suit Jacket), Perry Hopkins, organizer for MD Communities United, and Nicole Hanson, Board Member with Out For Justice (holding sign), speak in front of a group of community organizers gathered at 6 St. Paul Street in Baltimore in a rally for Governor Hogan to sign SB340, a bill that will enfranchise over 39,000 Marylanders their voting rights after returning to their communities from prison. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Supporters, opponents make cases for Md. bills in limbo

A group of men with criminal convictions gathered outside the Baltimore office of Gov. Larry Hogan Monday looking for one thing — his signature on a bill.

The bill, which would restore voting rights for ex-felons who have been released from prison but not yet completed their parole or probation, is one of more than 200 of pieces of legislation that has not yet had its fate decided by Hogan.

“We’re asking the governor today, by accepting our petitions and seeing our support for this bill, to sign it into law,” said Perry Hopkins,53, a community organizer for Baltimore-based Communities United. Hopkins has also spent time in and out of jail over the last two-decades.

Mark P. Matthews, Sr., with Clean Slate America, Inc., speaks in front of a group of community organizers gathered at 6 St. Paul Street in Baltimore in a rally for Governor Hogan to sign SB340, a bill that will enfranchise over 39,000 Marylanders their voting rights after returning to their communities from prison. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

Mark P. Matthews, Sr., with Clean Slate America, Inc., speaks in front of a group of community organizers gathered at 6 St. Paul Street in Baltimore in a rally for Governor Hogan to sign SB340, a bill that will enfranchise over 39,000 Marylanders their voting rights after returning to their communities from prison. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

Supporters gathered in front of the St. Paul office building said that Hogan, a Republican, has not given them any idea of whether he will sign the bill. The rally was mostly symbolic since Hogan moved back to his Annapolis office last week and supporters had to deliver the petitions to the State House.

The General Assembly passed 692 bills in the session that ended April 13. Of those, Hogan has signed 121 into law and is scheduled to sign another 350 during two bill-signing sessions Tuesday.

But some of the 221 bills not on the lists for signing are drawing attention from those who want the governor to approve or veto legislation. The governor has until May 30 to make a final decision, and a fourth but tentative bill-signing ceremony is scheduled for May 22.

Among the legislation still under consideration is a bill that would impose a two-year ban on fracking in western Maryland; legislation that will make a currently non-mandatory education spending formula mandatory should the governor decide not to spend money earmarked by the legislature for 13 jurisdictions; and the ex-felons voting rights bill.

Opponents of the bills are equally engaged in trying to encourage Hogan to make a decision in their favor.

Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, is using his online organization MDPetitions.org to make the voices of opponents of the voting law heard.

“This would allow some of the most dangerous criminals in our state to vote the day they are released,” Parrott said. “They still owe the state, they haven’t finished their sentences. They haven’t proved they are able to adjust back into society. They haven’t paid their debt to society.”

Hogan, for his part, has been cautious about taking public stands on bills. While he has occasionally signaled he would sign bills such as the Second Chance Act, he has been more coy about bills he will veto.

Two bills passed by the assembly are sure to test Hogan and his inaugural promise to use his veto power to kill measures that would adversely affect families or small businesses.

One such bill would make online hotel booking companies pay more in sales tax to the state.

Hogan has declined to say what he will do with the bill but told reporters last month that he did not consider it a violation of his promise to not impose any new taxes.

“It doesn’t cost the taxpayers of Maryland anything at all,” Hogan said. “The online companies are charging a fee, a tax if you will, and not remitting that to the state. The consumers are already paying the money and (the online companies) are skimming it off the top. We haven’t made a decision on what to do on the bill, but I wouldn’t constitute it as a tax increase — it’s just something we’re taking a closer look at.”

The bill is supported by Bethesda-based Marriott International, which is looking to relocate its corporate headquarters.

Opposition includes a coalition of local online booking agencies spearheaded by larger online companies such as Priceline and Orbitz as well as Americans for Tax Reform, led by Grover Norquist.

Another bill of concern to some small businesses would change the state’s stop-loss insurance laws. Opponents such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses are asking Hogan to veto the measure, saying it would result in less insurance options for some employers and higher risks for those that opt to self-insure.

None of those bills were on a list of legislation to be signed by Hogan.

“Bills that might go into law without the governor’s signature and veto bills are still under review,” said Shareese Churchill, a Hogan spokeswoman.