Governor Martin O'Malley Announces Veto of Four Bills
Governor announces an additional three bills will become law without signature
Annapolis, MD (May 18, 2011) – Governor Martin O’Malley announced today the veto of four bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2011 Legislative Session:
Senate Bill 330 / House Bill 262 – Frederick County - Nonprofit School Lease - Property Tax Credit requires Frederick County or a municipality in the county to grant a property tax credit for property leased to a nonprofit school and used exclusively for primary or secondary educational purposes. The bill also requires the lessor of real property eligible for the property tax credit to reduce the amount of taxes for which a nonprofit school is contractually liable under the lease agreement by the amount of the property tax credit. The intention of the bill was to exempt public charter schools from having to pay property taxes on property leased by a school from a private owner. However, as amended, the bill grants a property tax exemption to all private schools that lease property in Frederick County. Because of this unintended result, the sponsors have requested a veto. Read Governor O’Malley’s veto letter for Senate Bill 330 / House Bill 262 here.
Senate Bill 270 – Alcoholic Beverages – Allegany County Board of License Commissioners – Vacancies alters the manner in which members of the Allegany County Board of License Commissioners are appointed, establishing a unique, if not unprecedented, process by subjecting an appointment by the Governor to the advice and consent of a local political central committee. Senate Bill 270 injects a purely political body into a pivotal role in the appointment of a Board that performs a governmental function. The process pursued in Senate Bill 270 politicizes the appointment, and presumably the Board, by empowering political central committees in a unique manner, and to an even greater extent than they are involved in the appointment of our local election boards. Read Governor O’Malley’s veto letter for Senate Bill 270 here.
House Bill 22 – Courts – Attorneys – Subpoena Procedures and Forms of the Circuit Courts, as originally introduced, required the courts to adopt uniform subpoena procedures and forms to be used in circuit courts throughout Maryland. It was later amended to allow attorneys and other officers of the court to obtain signed and sealed subpoenas and to photocopy those subpoenas and use the photocopies for service. The Maryland Judiciary has voiced strong opposition to House Bill 22 and Chief Judge Robert Bell has urged a veto. House Bill 22 relaxes carefully-constructed Rules, according to the Judiciary, and invites misuse of the legal process by removing the safeguard of the clerk and allowing access to court orders by anyone with a copier and a subpoena.
While Governor O’Malley is vetoing the legislation, he agrees with the intent behind its original introduction. It is the Governor’s belief that there should be uniformity in the circuit court subpoena process to ensure that all parties, and their attorneys, have access to due process of law. In the Governor’s official veto letter, he urges the Maryland Judiciary to continue to work towards a uniform process and to ensure that the current Rules, requiring the issuance of unlimited blank subpoenas, are being enforced. Read Governor O’Malley’s veto letter for House Bill 22 here.
Senate Bill 947 / House Bill 1312 - State Retirement and Pension System - Vested Retirement Allowance - Members and Former Members prohibits a former member of a designated retirement and pension plan within the State Retirement and Pension System (SRPS) from receiving a retroactive vested benefit allowance if the member files for vested benefits after normal retirement age. A member must submit a written application to the SRPS Board of Trustees that states the date on which the member wants to begin receiving a vested allowance. Under the bill, any benefits that the member would have received from normal age of retirement to the time the member actually applies for benefits must be forfeited. There are approximately 4,236 vested former members in the State plans who have not claimed their vested benefit despite being older than their normal retirement age. It is the Governor’s contention that this legislation unintentionally imposes a very harsh punishment on former teachers and State employees who do not file their application for benefits upon reaching normal retirement age. Governor O’Malley, in his veto letter, expresses concern about the potential impact of lost benefits on seniors who are struggling on fixed incomes. Further, there is no provision in the in the bill that allows former vested members to ask the SRPS Board of Trustees for a hardship waiver, such as those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, to allow a member to collect past benefits. Governor O’Malley has encouraged the Joint Committee on Pensions to consider an equitable and more workable alternative to the one proposed in this legislation. Read Governor O’Malley’s veto letter for Senate Bill 947 / House Bill 1312 here.
Additionally, Governor O’Malley announced today that three pieces of legislation will be allowed to become law without his signature:
House Bill 302, Inmates – Life Imprisonment – Parole Approval, as originally introduced, would have removed the gubernatorial approval process altogether and allowed the Parole Commission’s recommendations to grant parole to go into effect without this safeguard. Governor O’Malley opposed this bill and ultimately, the bill was amended to retain the gubernatorial approval process, but provide that if the Governor does not disapprove the decision within 180 days, the decision to grant parole becomes effective. Under current law, all recommendations to grant parole to inmates serving sentences of life imprisonment must be approved by the Governor before an inmate may be released. This gubernatorial approval process ensures that our most serious offenders, convicted of offenses such as murder and rape, are not released into our communities without adequate safeguards. Governor O’Malley understands that all involved in these cases deserve a timely decision process. However, given the gravity of the offenses for which these inmates are serving life sentences, it is the Governor’s contention that Maryland citizens would be better served if the default provision in the legislation was to deny the parole request rather than to grant it. Read Governor O’Malley’s letter for House Bill 302 here.
Senate Bill 367 – Alcoholic Beverages - Anne Arundel County – Entertainment Facility creates an entertainment facility license and an entertainment concessionaire license for a Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) facility in Anne Arundel County and for the concessionaires adjacent to, but independent of, that facility. Earlier this month, the developer of the VLT facility in Anne Arundel County announced that it was abandoning its plan to open a temporary 2,000 machine facility in October of this year. Currently, the developer’s plan is apparently to construct a temporary facility by June 2012 - eight months later than originally planned - and a permanent facility by October 2012. The General Assembly was not aware of this change in plans at the time it passed Senate Bill 367. If the original schedule had been adhered to by the developer, the decision to sign the bill – despite the fact that it does not completely address the issue of the sale of alcohol on Sundays - would be an easy one, as the licenses created by the bill would need to be available prior to the reconvening of the General Assembly. With the current information on the developer’s change of plans, however, it is very likely that if Senate Bill 367 were to be vetoed, the flaw in the bill could be fixed by the General Assembly prior to the need for any licenses. Governor O’Malley has concluded that consistent with the State’s desire to expedite the project, he will allow Senate Bill 367 to become law without signature. Read Governor O’Malley’s letter for Senate Bill 367 here.
Senate Bill 685 – Unemployment Insurance – Messenger Services Drivers – Delivery modifies and clarifies an exemption from coverage under the State unemployment insurance laws for drivers who perform work for messenger delivery businesses. Under current law, this exemption applies only to drivers who work under certain specified arrangements for about 25 small Maryland companies which deliver mail, messages and documents by foot, bicycle or motor vehicle. The bill expands the types of products these companies will now be permitted to deliver to include “emergency medical supplies, records, parcels, or similar items.” At the same time, however, the bill sets forth more specific and stringent requirements which must be satisfied by the businesses in order for their drivers to qualify for the exemption. In allowing the bill to become law, Governor O’Malley has expressed his reliance on the General Assembly’s intent, as demonstrated by its decision to increase and make more specific the requirements regarding the business model to which the exemption applies, that the bill only expand the services these companies may provide without also expanding the types of businesses which can utilize the exemption. Governor O’Malley has made clear that this bill should not result in additional Maryland workers falling under this exemption or enable national companies to change business practices to deprive their workers of unemployment insurance and other protections. Read Governor O’Malley’s letter for Senator Bill 685 here.