Democrats look to override Republican Governor’s vetoes

Minimum wage hike, start of school in the political crosshairs

Less than twenty-four hours after Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan handed the democratic leaders in Annapolis a scathing blow to their wage increase legislation, they shot back with a message of their own – a veto override!

Minutes ago, the 141-members of the MD House of Delegates voted 96-43 to override the veto of HB166, which sought to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Pushed by the powerful union movement, this progressive legislation sought to make Maryland workers one of the highest paid in the country, which caused Governor Hogan to oppose the legislation.

The second-term moderate governor offered to increase the minimum wage to $12.10 an hour – two dollars more than the current $10.10 an hour minimum wage – by 2022. However, Democrats refused to listen to his “compromise”, instead choosing to make the unions long sought after “Fight for $15” legislation a democratic priority during this legislative session. And while the bill that eventually passed was severely amended from its original version, advocates hailed the compromised piece of legislation as a victory for working families.

“Governor Hogan has once again turned his back on working families by vetoing the $15 minimum wage and sending a clear message that he cares more about corporations than people,” said SEIU1199 organizer and lead strategist for the Fight for 15, Ricarra Jones. She and other advocates rallied in Annapolis earlier this morning, calling on the democratically controlled House and Senate to override the Governor’s veto, which prompted the House to take immediate action.

The Senate passed the original legislation with a veto-proof majority 32-15 vote and passed the override vote with the exact same vote today, needing only 29-votes to override Governor Hogan’s veto. Senate sponsor Cory McCray, a first-term Democrat from Baltimore City’s 45th district, rose on the floor to inform his colleagues that “they aren’t looking for a handout, but rather a hand up”, with the passage of this legislation.

Governor Hogan stated that the passage of this legislation will devastate the state’s economy, costing the state close to 100,000 jobs in the long run. “A recent study on the issues of the $15 minimum wage concluded that Maryland private sector employment would be reduced by over 99,000 jobs and our state’s economic output would decline by more than $61 billion over the next decade,” stated in a press release recently sent out by the Governor’s Office.

“In the spirit of compromise, I provided the General Assembly with several reasonable options that would have provided for an increase in the minimum wage but not negatively impact jobs and businesses in Maryland. Unfortunately, those efforts were completely ignored. I proposed a manageable, phased increase of the minimum wage by two dollars to $12.10 by the year 2022. I also proposed that the legislature attach a trigger that would make any further increases above $12.10 effective only if our surrounding states reached a combined average of 80% of our wage.”

The indexing trigger proposed by the Governor was also attached to the original version of the bill, introduced by advocates in the beginning of the session, when they stated that they would not accept anything but a “clean bill” (without amendments). However, as the bill slowly worked its way through both chambers, it was clear that a clean bill was not something they would get.

Instead, democratic lawmakers amended the bill to ensure that the minimum wage wouldn’t hit $15 until 2025, instead of the proposed 2023, and that’s only for businesses with fifteen or more employees. Any businesses with less than fifteen employees won’t have to pay the $15 minimum wage until 2026. The indexing provision was eliminated, as was the inclusion of tipped workers, while an amendment was added that allows the members of the state’s Board of Public Works (Governor, Comptroller and State Treasurer) to suspend one year’s increase if they can show that the state’s fiscal forecast justified the suspension. However, that can only be done once over the next seven years, and the increase would have to pick up where it left off for the years following.

In his veto letter, Governor Hogan referenced Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s veto of a local $15 an hour minimum wage increase two years ago, after she campaigned and won on the promise of supporting it. At the time, she stated that Baltimore shouldn’t be “the hole in the doughnut” when surrounding jurisdictions had much lower minimum wages. The Governor made the exact same rationale, comparing the surrounding states minimum wage to that of Maryland’s, and questioning what business would set up in Maryland when they can go to states such as Virginia and pay a $7.25 hourly wage.

However, now the state will begin increasing its minimum wage later this year, as it is set to increase to $11.00 an hour, increasing .75 cents a year through 2025.

And this seems to be the first of three veto overrides that democrats will try to enact this week, as the Governor vetoed two other pieces of legislation yesterday. One would give local control over the start of the school year back to schools across the state, unraveling the executive order enacted by the Governor a few years ago that pushed the start of the school year back until after Labor Day. The other, HB1052, would implement a new Alcohol and Tobacco Commission in order to punish democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot, who refuses to tow the party line and play nice with the democratic leadership.

Governor Hogan said that both bills were politically motivated, vetoing both two weeks before the end of the 2019 legislative session. In regards to SB128, the Governor stated that he tried to work with members of the Maryland General Assembly to allow local jurisdictions to put the issue before the voters if they didn’t want to start school after Labor Day. “Our administration’s bill would have offered genuine, local control over this important issue. Instead, Senate Bill 128 masquerades under the guise of more local control, but instead does the complete opposite of what citizens want.”

It’s likely that Republicans will use the override of this veto to try and garner the necessary signatures by state voters to put this issue on next year’s ballot, a caveat in the state constitution that allows for individuals to use the referendum process on recently passed legislation.

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