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In last round of Hogan vetoes, Franchot gets his wish

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Gov. Larry Hogan at the the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce meeting Friday. (CNS photo)

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Gov. Larry Hogan at a 2016 Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce meeting Friday. (CNS photo)

A pension board bill opposed by the state’s comptroller has been vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Hogan Friday announced the veto of Senate Bill 178, which would have prevented the state comptroller from serving as chair of the State Retirement and Pension system board of trustees. In his letter, Hogan criticized the bill as politically motivated.

“This legislation was originally filed as a technical fix that would codify the existing practice of how new members of the board of trustees of the State Retirement and Pension System take their oath of office,” Hogan wrote in his veto letter. “Unfortunately, an amendment was added in the waning hours of the legislative session which made a drastic change to the current practice by which the chair of this board is selected.”

The bill was among six vetoed Friday. Hogan announced vetoes of three education policy-related bills on Thursday.

Hogan’s vetoes cannot be overturned by the General Assembly next year because the state constitution prohibits a newly sworn-in legislature from undoing the work of the previous session. Lawmakers would have to pass these measures anew.

The governor also allowed more than five dozen other bills to become law without his signature.

The amendment, added late on the last day of the 2018 session, was another jab by Democratic lawmakers at Comptroller Peter Franchot, a member of their own party.

Legislative leaders have expressed a growing frustration with Franchot because of his comments at Board of Public Works meetings and online. They’ve also been irritated by his friendly relationship with Hogan, the first-term Republican.

The General Assembly this year stripped the board of its oversight of school construction issues, specifically citing the comptroller’s actions on the panel. Legislators also killed Franchot’s top legislative priority — legislation to ease state restrictions on craft brewers.

The positions of the chair and vice chair of the pension board are not determined by law. The leadership of the panel has traditionally fallen to one of the two constitutional officers on the board — the comptroller or the treasurer — who serve as the leader of the panel with the other in the vice chairman role.

The assignment of positions is typically determined by seniority.

Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, who was selected by the General Assembly in 2002, has five more years experience than Franchot and has led the board for the last 11 years.

Franchot wrote Hogan in April asking for the veto.

In April, Kopp herself questioned the need for the change, saying the current system had worked well.

Hogan, in his veto letter, noted that the board of trustees also asked for the veto.

Hogan wrote that “it is unconscionable that the General Assembly would cynically use this bill as a vehicle for political payback.”

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