The 4 Veto Overrides Needed to Help Maryland Schools

Veto overrides to enact the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and several other pieces of important legislation must be a top priority when the General Assembly convenes January 13. Overriding the governor’s vetoes will play a critical role in paving the road to recovery from the opportunity gaps and inequities made larger by the pandemic’s impact on our schools.

Here are the key vetoed education-related bills that educators are following in the run-up to session:

Most Importantly, the Blueprint

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (HB 1300) contains programs that unfold and expand over a decade to address longstanding inequities in education that disproportionately affect students in poverty. Now more than ever, we need the Blueprint to create strong schools in every neighborhood by providing additional support to struggling learners, hiring more educators and increasing their pay, expanding career and technical education, and delivering a more prosperous future for our state.

The Blueprint is strongly supported and critical to proceeding with the work on equity and school facility improvements that are tied to it. The Blueprint passed with a large bipartisan majority in both the House (96-38) and Senate (37-9). That indicates more than enough votes to achieve the three-fifths majority of each chamber needed to override the governor’s veto. And polling in the spring found a majority of the public (66%) continue to support the Blueprint, consistent with its level of support for years as it has worked its way through the legislative process.

Gov. Hogan’s veto of the Blueprint frustrated legislative leaders who championed the bill and see it as essential to the state’s educational and economic future. “While we are in the midst of a public health and economic crisis of an extraordinary magnitude, stopping progress on education and school construction puts us even further behind,” said House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones. Senate President Bill Ferguson faulted Hogan’s decision, saying, “Instead of setting us on a path to a secure recovery, the governor is stopping all progress where it stands.”

Crumbling Schools Abandoned

Compounding the damage, the governor’s veto of the Blueprint also slammed the brakes on the Built to Learn Act, a $2.2 billion investment in school construction for badly needed new and replace­ment schools and facilities. The average age of school buildings continues to climb, leaving facilities that are overcrowded, badly ventilated, and lacking safe water access. Overriding the Blueprint veto means the process can begin to repair crumbling schools and generate jobs and economic opportunity through new capital projects.

Funding Bills Need Override Too

Essential to the Blueprint’s success are the revenue streams to fund expanding education programs, either through the general fund or specially designated education funds. Legislators should also override Hogan’s veto of HB 732, the Tobacco, Sales and Use Tax and Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax, and HB 932, the 21st Century Economy Fairness Act. The tobacco and digital advertising tax collects revenue specifically for education from both an increase in the state’s tobacco tax and the levying of a new tax on large online advertising companies like Google and Facebook. The 21st Century Economy Act collects revenue from sales of digital products, with the revenue going to the Blueprint for Maryland Future Fund.

Together, these bills were estimated to generate more than a quarter billion dollars in their first year. The tobacco and digital advertising tax (HB 732) is applicable to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2020, so it and the 21st Century Economy Act would take effect 30 days after the override.

Equity Is a Bedrock Value

In addition to restoring equity to K-12 funding, MSEA strongly advocates for the settlement with the state’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as was achieved in HB 1260. Hogan vetoed the bill, which would pay out $580 million over 10 years to restore some equity, and justice, that has historically been denied to these institutions. As the state strives to develop a more diverse workforce we advocate strong support for HBCUs, which have been and will be a vital resource.

The Path to Overriding the Vetoes

When the House convenes on January 13, Speaker Jones will read a “message from the governor” to members concerning the vetoes, and a motion will follow to move the legislation to the agenda on a day when enough members are expected to be in person, during an otherwise mostly virtual legislation session, to vote in favor of the override.

For the Blueprint specifically, since Gov. Hogan vetoed the House version of the bill, the House will need to take an override vote first. An override requires support from at least three-fifths of members in each house: 85 in the House, 28 in the Senate. It is a simple up or down vote—no amendments to the bill are permissible. A bill enacted over a veto takes effect 30 days after the veto is overridden or on the date specified in the bill, whichever is later.

The exact timing of the override vote remains to be determined, particularly given the special rules that the General Assembly will operate under during the 2021 session out of public health concerns. Stay tuned!

Take Action for Override

We know that the long-term path to building a strong economy and faster recovery for students from the traumas and challenges of this year runs through increased investment in our schools and students. Contact your legislator to ask them to override the veto of the Blueprint.