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Hogan’s vetoes face a familiar political backdrop

Will he have any luck the second time around?

The decision by Gov. Larry Hogan to veto five bills Friday may end up reprising the same scenario as last year, when the Democratic majority in the legislature successfully made veto overrides one of the first orders of business in a new legislative session.

Democrats will still hold iron-fisted control of both chambers, and as long as they keep members in line they once again can overturn the governor’s vetoes.

Among the measures rejected by Hogan Friday were legislation mandating increases in the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar to 25 percent by 2020; a bill establishing a transit oversight board; and a measure requiring the state to set aside funds to pay for the replacement of the aging Gov. Harry T. Nice Bridge in southern Maryland.

Hogan took umbrage to the mandate to replace the Nice bridge — one of a handful of transportation bills he saw as a usurpation of executive power.

Hogan, in his veto letter, said the bill that mandates that $75 million violates the trust agreement with state bondholders and said the measure “is likely the first of many bills attempting to push a transportation project to the head of the line by legislative ‘Logrolling.’”

Some lawmakers worry that reductions in tolls announced last year effectively killed the ability of the authority to pay for a replacement for the 75-year-old bridge. Replacement of the bridge that spans the Potomac connecting Charles County to Virginia is projected to cost as much as $1 billion.

Hogan called the project a “high priority of this administration and any claims to the contrary are simply not true.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles County and chairman of the Finance Committee, passed both the House and Senate by veto-proof majorities, a signal that the votes exist next year to override Hogan’s decision.

Before Friday, Hogan had vetoed eight bills, and the General Assembly had overturned all of those actions.

Allowed to become law

The governor also announced last week that he would allow 84 House and Senate bills to become law without his signature including the College Affordability Act of 2016 and a bill restricting the use of pesticides linked to mass bee colony deaths.

Hogan’s announcement Friday represented the governor’s final decisions on bills passed by the legislature earlier this year.

Also vetoed by Hogan was a bill that requires the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar to increase to 25 percent by 2020.

“This legislation is a tax increase that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland and, for that reason alone, I cannot allow it to become law,” Hogan wrote, adding that increases in rates associated with the bill would “impose a tax increase of between $49 million and $196 million.”

Supporters said the increase would also lead to a corresponding increase in jobs related to renewable energy.

Hogan agreed that there was a positive economic impact associated with prospective jobs but said the corresponding costs would be borne by state ratepayers.

Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said the “veto of the bipartisan Clean Energy Jobs Act is a shock to business leaders and Marylanders who value clean air and water.”

“While we fully expect the General Assembly to override this veto, Governor Hogan has ushered in harm to our economy and environment in the meantime,” Tidwell said in his statement. “This veto will likely cause immediate job losses in the solar industry while temporarily delaying reductions in harmful air, water and climate pollution. It’s deeply hypocritical for the governor to say he supports reducing greenhouse gas pollution and now to veto the top policy solution.”

That bill also passed by veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.

Hogan, in a letter explaining his veto of the transit oversight board, said the provisions of the bill “represent a sophomoric attack on sound transportation policy by creating an unprecedented imposition of a politically driven board to second guess the authority of an executive branch agency.”

Del. Brooke Lierman, D-Baltimore City and sponsor of the bill, said she was informed by the governor’s office today that her transit bill would be vetoed. She said no reason was given.

“Every other major transportation agency in the country has a board, and transit riders in the greater Baltimore region deserve better oversight of their public transit system,” Lierman said.