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Moore issues first vetoes, lets cannabis search bill and others become law without his signature

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Moore issues first vetoes, lets cannabis search bill and others become law without his signature

May 19, 2023 | 7:19 pm ET
By Bryan P. Sears
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Moore issues first vetoes, lets cannabis search bill and others become law without his signature
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Gov. Wes Moore (D) issued the first vetoes of his administration on Friday. He allowed several other bills to take effect without his signature. File photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) on Friday issued the first vetoes of his young administration and also allowed 10 bills to become law without his signature — including a measure that addresses traffic stops when the odor of cannabis is present and fines for smoking marijuana in public.

“This is the last action” by the governor on bills passed during the recent General Assembly session, according to a spokesperson for Moore, Carter Elliott IV.

Only one of the governor’s three vetoes actually sends a piece of legislation back to the drawing board; the other two were versions of bills he had previously signed, meaning “it is not necessary for me to sign” the companion legislation, Moore said in veto messages to legislative leaders.

The cannabis bill, sponsored by Del. Charlotte Crutchfield (D-Montgomery), prohibits a law enforcement officer from stopping and searching a vehicle or motorist solely on the basis of cannabis odor and also places restrictions on searches. The bill also addresses fines for possession of marijuana.

This was the legislation that was being voted on on the House floor during the final minutes of the General Assembly session, which Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) pushed through even though several Republicans sought to delay the process by explaining their vote. Jones’ unwillingness to let them speak led to an unprecedented outburst on the House floor by Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), a former House minority leader. Several Republicans walked off the floor at that point, and Jones gaveled the 90-day session to a close.

The cannabis bill will take effect on July 1 — the same day a regulated recreational cannabis marketplace opens in Maryland.

The other bills that will become law without Moore’s signature are:

  • HB 131, sponsored by Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery), which repeals the crime of unnatural or perverted sexual practice, and SB 54, the companion bill from Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard);
  • HB 239, from Del. Jeffrie E. Long Jr. (D-Prince George’s), which establishes an Accessory Dwelling Unit Policy Task Force in the state, and SB 382, the companion bill from Sen. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City);
  • HB 371, from Del. Dalya Attar (D-Baltimore City), that sets new thresholds for indemnity mortgage transactions that are exempt from the state recordation tax;
  • HB 701, from Kipke, which sets pay scales for the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission and lays out guidelines for setting pay scales in the Offices of the Comptroller, Treasurer, and Attorney General;
  • SB 545, from Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s), addressing the hours when towed vehicles can be recovered;
  • SB 610, from Washington, which establishes requirements for virtual education programs;
  • SB 691, from Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), which applies the state’s sales and use tax to home amenity rentals

Moore’s office did not immediately explain why he chose to let the bills become law without his signature.

Moore vetoed House Bill 472 and Senate Bill 217. The identical bills proposed changes to how the Maryland Transportation Administration awards commuter bus contracts.

Under state law, the agency has a number of options in the bidding process. Currently, MTA uses an invitation for bid process. Lawmakers wanted to move to a sealed bid process.

The legislature passed the bills over the objection of the MTA. The agency expressed concerns that the proposed mandate would result in decreased competition. In a letter of opposition, the agency said less competition would add as much as 15% to the cost of the commuter bus contracts, or about $42 million over a five-year period.

The estimate did not include potential increases caused by inflation.

Moore, in his veto message, said such a change would be time consuming and potentially more expensive and set an unwanted precedent.

“As we work in partnership with the legislature at the task of rebuilding state government, one of my administration’s key goals has been to make the procurement process more efficient, transparent, and fair,” Moore wrote. “In particular, my administration is working to ensure that small business owners and minority- and women-owned businesses have equitable opportunities to compete for and receive procurement awards.”

Moore issued an executive order in January requiring state agencies to report on the progress in meeting goals for hiring minority- and women-owned businesses.

Moore has already signed versions of the two other bills he vetoed Friday.

One, SB 144, from Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), would have required the state to set energy savings performance targets for subsidized low-income housing. But Moore already signed the companion bill, HB 169, sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery).

Similarly, Moore on Friday vetoed HB 557, a bill from the Carroll County House delegation setting bond limits for county government, but he had already signed its cross-file from the Senate delegation.