Though he was late to the game, Gov. Hogan's attempt to drive workers back to possibly unsafe jobs has galvanized the state's Dems. They were looking the other way from his outrageous late vetoes of progressive measures, but may have to focus on them after all. Lawmakers are reportedly asking about a special session.
/PM BlogSpace Report/ Gov. Larry Hogan may have aimed to bolster his national GOP cred by canceling Joe Biden’s $300 weekly top-off of Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Maryland but he has galvanized the sleepy Democratic establishment with the rash move and raised sentiment for a special Assembly session up from the growls of veto-goaded progressive groups to the Dem mainstream.
Numerous progressive groups who saw hard-won legislative gains on social justice issues casually wiped out or at least delayed by Hogan’s last-ditch vetoes have seethed because Assembly leadership seemed to feel that overrides could wait until January and the next regular leg9slative session.
Hogan’s move on the UI payment seems to have escalated that sentiment within Assembly members, as numerous media accounts have legislators consulting the Attorney General, Brian Frosh (D) on how to get the Assembly together sooner to counter Hogan’s move.
Thursday morning’s Union City email newsletter (Metro DC Council, AFL-CIO) trumpets:
MD Dems and labor leaders denounce Hogan’s efforts to end UI
After Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced his decision [Wednesday] to end supplemental unemployment benefits in early July, Maryland unions applauded the efforts of members of the General Assembly to oppose or mitigate his action. “Governor Hogan’s suggestion that pandemic-induced unemployment has abated is completely out of touch with our industry trends and the pain workers statewide are still experiencing,” said UNITE HERE Local 25 Executive Secretary-Treasurer John Boardman.
Hogan was playing catch-up – 23 GOP governors had already wiped out the extra $300 UI bonus, bleating that workers were couch-surfing at home while employers scrambled to fill jobs – but he joined that chorus. On the contrary, Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, observes about “the labor shortage myth: “The thing that I always suggest that people say is—when they hear an employer say, ‘I can’t find the workers that I need’—always add the phrase ‘at the wage I want to pay.’”
The UI cancellation seems to have awakened Democrats, as well, to the effects of Hogan’s most recent vetoes, which already had groups like Progressive Maryland seething at how many hard-won victories for working families would now have to wait until January 2022 or later for veto overrides to take effect.
Earlier in his last-minute flurry of GOP-branding vetoes Hogan had outraged advocates for social justice and immigrant rights, including CASA, with “vetoes from earlier this week of measures that would: limit state and local government cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, remove the governor’s role in deciding parole for prisoners serving life sentences and remove syringes from a criminal definition of drug paraphernalia,” The Sun reported.
Another veto provoked outrage from progressive groups backing more systemic transit funding requirements in the Transit Safety and Investment Act. “The bill would have established minimum funding levels for mass transit in the state’s construction budget, with a goal of catching up on $2 billion worth of maintenance projects. This governor — and future governors through 2029 — would have had to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars each year for projects to improve the Maryland Transit Administration’s train and bus systems,” Pamela Wood reported in The Sun.
The bill also would have required the state to study extending its MARC commuter train system to Western Maryland and to award $2 million worth of grants to small businesses affected by construction of a light rail line in the Washington suburbs called the Purple Line.
“This is a setback for Maryland’s infrastructure, Maryland’s economy, and, most importantly, for the Marylanders who rely on the MTA to get to school, to work, to the pharmacy, and other places they need to go,” Sen. Cory McCray, a Baltimore Democrat, said in a statement Friday.
And in another patent attempt at national GOP branding, Hogan vetoed measures dictating higher wages in some publicly supported programs and enabling unionization in some public employment categories.
Now, said The Sun after Hogan’s late flurry of vetoes, he “appears to be more concerned about keeping up Republican appearances for a potential run for higher office than in serious and engaged governance of his own state. …His opposition to procurement transparency or even legislation mandating local and state planning for the next pandemic may well stem more from how such reforms might validate criticism of his own stewardship of the crisis than his alleged concerns about cost or red tape. Yet the net result is that Maryland will be less prepared for the kind of health crisis that a COVID-19 variant might yet offer.”
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said in a statement that he was “startled by the number of bipartisan bills” that were vetoed.
“We will evaluate each vetoed bill on its merits,” he said, “as we determine decisions on overrides with senators and House leadership.” But at that point Ferguson was talking about taking up those questions in January.
But after the proposed wipeout of extra UI benefits, The Sun reported, he ups the tone: “Should your Administration continue down this path without proper consideration for the negative impacts to Marylanders, our chamber will be forced to consider all other tools at our disposal [emphasis added] to ensure our State’s prosperity,” Ferguson wrote in a letter [to Hogan] on Wednesday along with Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat who co-chairs a General Assembly unemployment committee.
It’s fair to note that from the perspective of Maryland’s progressive groups and individuals, Assembly members and their new leadership hardly distinguished themselves in the 2021 Session: watering down important bills via mandates from the leadership and allowing other critical measures to fail through ineptitude and personality clashes. They owe themselves, and their constituents, as much of a do-over as they can cobble together this summer.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat who is running for governor, suggested that state lawmakers should step in, Maryland Matters reported.
“I respectfully urge the leadership of the General Assembly to consider all options, including: Come back. Convene a special session to reverse the governor’s decision, because Marylanders frankly deserve better than this,” Franchot said. And legislative leaders sought advice from Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) about a possible special session.
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