Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoes criminal justice reform and voting rights, abstains on LGBT protections

Larry Hogan has the unenviable task of being a Republican governor in a blue state. Elected with 51 percent of the vote last year after railing against former Governor Martin O’Malley’s “rain tax,” Hogan now gets to preside over a state that disagrees with him on pretty much everything else.

And Hogan’s quickly gathering the lumps — and vetoes — to show for it.

Last Friday, Governor Hogan vetoed what amounted to the better part of an entire criminal justice reform agenda, nixing bills that would have removed penalties for possessing marijuana paraphernalia, scaled back asset forfeiture and allowed felons to register to vote. The bills are all relatively modest steps against some of the most racially-biased laws our country has on the books with respect to law enforcement and voting rights.

If you need a primer on what asset forfeiture is, and how ridiculous it is, here’s John Oliver’s thorough takedown:

These bills were all considered in the context of the Freddie Gray protests, and, as Lee Fang of The Intercept notes, Hogan explained two of his vetoes as having come at the request of Maryland’s police unions, which have proven to be a major roadblock to criminal justice reforms in Maryland and elsewhere.

So Hogan, the Republican governor of a blue state that he is, has shown that he is more than willing to take out his veto pen when the Democratic legislature passes a bill that cuts against his Republican core.

Which is why it’s telling that, on Sunday, Hogan announced that he will neither sign nor veto bills that provide for new LGBT protections, instead allowing it to become law without his signature.

One bill requires that health insurers cover fertility treatment regardless of sexual orientation. The other allows transgender residents to change their gender identity on their birth certificates. Both of the bills were on Equality Maryland’s list of top legislative priorities for the legislative session, and with good reason: they are big, big deals that extend Maryland residents protections that many other states do not provide.

In explaining the governor’s tacit approval of the protections, a spokesperson for Governor Hogan told The Washington Post that “We’re opposed to discrimination — all forms of discrimination.” The Post went on to note that Hogan has largely avoided planting flags on social issues that have tripped Republicans up nationwide, both on the campaign trail and while in office.

Larry Hogan, via Fort Meade / Flickr

Larry Hogan, via Fort Meade / Flickr

Which leads one to wonder why the racial disparities in our criminal justice system — disparities that the slate of bills Hogan vetoed last week sought to address — don’t count as social issues. After all, marijuana criminalization, asset forfeiture and voting rights for felons are issues on which there is massive racial discrimination.

So when the Governor’s office said that they are “opposed to discrimination — all forms of discrimination,” they betrayed a fundamental ignorance of some of the most striking discrimination sitting right under their noses; discrimination that they only days earlier endorsed by vetoing minor tweaks to which citizens the state considers criminals and what rights those citizens are afforded.

Seeing as how vetoes like this are at the core of what sparked some of the largest protests the state of Maryland has seen in recent memory, they can’t say they don’t know better with a straight face.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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23 Responses to “Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoes criminal justice reform and voting rights, abstains on LGBT protections”

  1. larry says:

    Move to Portland Or.

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  4. Release from prison is not the end of your sentence. Completion of parole following release from prison is the end of your sentence. That is when rights should be — and are — restored in Maryland.

  5. emjayay says:

    What other states do with felon voting:

  6. Indigo says:

    Isn’t that where the riots were? No wonder, given that level of incompetence in the governor’s office. Clearly, something is rotten in Maryland.

  7. Jon Green says:

    That’s exactly what the bill would have done — restore voting rights upon release from prison: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-vote-veto-20150526-story.html

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  10. Voting is a right that is lost upon service of a felony sentence. Deprivation of your civil liberties (including freedom and voting) are part of the punishment under the law in all 50 states while serving the sentence. Rights are restored afterwards.

  11. It’s called a typo. But voting is a right that is lost upon service of a felony sentence. Deprivation of your civil liberties (including freedom and voting) are part of the punishment under the law in all 50 states.

  12. 2karmanot says:

    A murdering cop “does not require society to forget what he has done or bar society from making reasonable judgments based on his past crimes.” With license to kill, I imagine you and those who think like you would argue there is no Mens Rea for state sponsored killers, who therefor vote with impunity. # snark.

  13. 2karmanot says:

    Trolling for punishment, isn’t that special.

  14. 2karmanot says:

    Voting is NOT a privilege it is a right and ever incarcerated individual should have that right.

  15. 2karmanot says:

    ” I has written—-” says it all.

  16. Even had you not posted this, I has written “I’m proud and very comfortable to serve as a Senior Advisor in the Hogan Administration” in my comment above.

  17. Jon Green says:

    This seems relevant:

  18. Agree, and Maryland already provides for automatic restoration upon completion of sentence. The specific bill that Governor Hogan vetoed would have restored voting rights to felons STILL serving their sentences (ie, still on parole). It is a pretty extreme position to suggest restoring voting rights to felons who have yet to complete their sentences and have not yet paid their debt to society (and, in fact, could potentially still be returned to prison for parole violations).

  19. Wow, so many misleading and out-of-context things in this one report.

    First, Governor Hogan ran on a platform that was purely jobs/economy/taxes. He did not run on any social issues (except to the extent he repeatedly said that same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and gun control were “well-settled law” in the state and he didn’t plan to do anything to change anything on those social issues). He stuck to these positions even in his GOP primary when he was attacked as a moderate “RINO” by his main Tea Party opponent.

    By not vetoing these LGBT-related bills, Governor Hogan acted to ALLOW them to become law. That was why his move was actually praised by Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans in news reports in the state: “We’re really happy. These are bills that we worked very hard on, and they had bipartisan support in the General Assembly. It seems like [Hogan] doesn’t come in with a very entrenched opinion on social issues and that he really is looking at each bill individually. With a lot of the measures we’re supporting that don’t cost money, I think he’s going to support them. I think he’ll continue with a sort of fiscal-economic lens, and if we put forward something that would cost the state millions of dollars, he probably wouldn’t support it then.”

    As to restoring voting rights to felony, Maryland already has a law on the books that automatically restored voting rights upon the COMPLETION of a felony sentence. The specific bill that Governor Hogan vetoed would have restored voting rights to felons STILL serving their sentences (ie, still on parole). It is a pretty extreme position to suggest restoring voting rights to felons who have yet to complete their sentences and have not yet paid their debt to society (and, in fact, could potentially still be returned to prison for parole violations).

    How about mentioning how the Governor SIGNED the police body cameras bill, or the bill which increased the amount of damages someone can sue the police for?

    On the issue of marijuana decriminalization, Maryland already enacted that a year ago. What the Governor vetoed related only to narcotics paraphernalia — items that can also be used for more dangerous drugs. The Governor has focused resources and efforts, for example, to humanely target the epidemic of sky high heroin addiction rates in the state. He cited his heroin concerns in his veto message.

    But how about mentioning the Washington Post (a Democratic newspaper) last week praised Hogan in an editorial for keeping “his promise to govern from the center” … and praised him again today for trying to force the state to keep its promise to retired state employees in the pension system: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/democrats-irresponsible-pension-funding-bet-in-maryland/2015/05/25/362d457c-ffd1-11e4-8b6c-0dcce21e223d_story.html?postshare=7481432658651684

    And how about mentioning how the Maryland League of Conservation Voters just issued their report card for his first 100 days in office and called his early record “promising” and called his appointees and his PMT regs (to help clean up the Bay) “positive moves”? http://mdlcv.org/issues/100-day-report

    As someone who has known and been friends with Governor Hogan for over 20 years, I can personally attest he has been an unwaivering supporter of fairness, respect, and LGBT equality. And that is why — as a Democrat and a longtime LGBT equality activist in my community — I’m proud and very comfortable to serve as a Senior Advisor in the Hogan Administration.

    Sorry that Governor Hogan’s centrism doesn’t live up to the right wing caricature you wanted to portray.

  20. rogerclegg says:

    Depends on what you mean by “served your time” — you may be out of prison, but you haven’t completed serving your sentence, since probation and parole are part of the sentence. Besides, while serving a sentence discharges a felon’s “debt to society” in the sense that his basic right to live in society is restored, serving a sentence does not require society to forget what he has done or bar society from making reasonable judgments based on his past crimes. For example, federal law prohibits felons from possessing firearms or serving on juries, which does not seem unreasonable.

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    The problem has always been that the wrong people are in prison.

    Judges and prosecutors who enforce racist Jim Crow strategies and fill the prisons with working class people of color are criminals.

    Killer cops and most cops are are criminals.

    Profit gouging banksters, the owners of insurance and pharmaceutical companies and landlords are criminals.

    Business owners who pay less than high trade union wages and benefits are criminals.

    The leaders of catholic, protestant, judaist, islamist and other cults are criminals guilty of crimes form sexual abuse of children to tax evasion and fraud.

    Those people should be in jail and the people railroaded into jail by drug laws should be freed and they and other workers offered should be guaranteed a free education, good housing, socialized medicine and wage or unemployment benefit at high trade union wages.

    Republicans will never support criminalizing profit gouging and jailing the rich. now will Democrats. Socialist will.

  22. Knottwhole says:

    What part of “served your time” do you have a problem understanding? Once a debt to society is paid all rights as a citizen should be returned.

  23. rogerclegg says:

    Glad to see the veto of the felon voting bill. As conservatives had pointed out, such
    automatic re-enfranchisement is “premature and unwise” [ http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/416911/maryland-shouldnt-be-automatically-re-enfranchising-felons-roger-clegg?target=author&tid=1046 ].

    To elaborate: If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in
    making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote. The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has
    shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on
    the day someone walks out of prison – let alone when parole/probation have not
    even been served. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in.

    The only bad news is that there may be a serious attempt
    to override the veto. Here’s hoping the
    votes are lacking for that in the Maryland state legislature.

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