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Baltimore Sun: Maryland Gov. Hogan vetoes bill to overhaul school construction approval process, dra

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan pulled out a stamp and a red marker Wednesday to dramatically veto a bill that would overhaul the state process for vetting and approving construction and renovation of schools.

Comptroller Peter Franchot joined him in ceremonially signing on to the veto at the weekly meeting of the Board of Public Works, and both men had sharp words for lawmakers considering an override of the veto.

“I can only assume that some legislators maybe had no idea what they were voting for when their party leaders forced them to pass this horrible bill,” the Republican governor said. “Let me be very, very clear: Anyone who votes to override this veto will be voting against transparency, against accountability in education, against fiscal responsibility and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Marylanders.”

State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat who works with Franchot and Hogan to approve school projects as the third member of the Board of Public Works, criticized her colleagues for what she called “kabuki theater.”

“I understand why you had to veto it today,” Kopp said. “I just wish we could cut the theater and get back to work.”

The bill would strip the board of its authority over school construction and hand over its power to an existing advisory panel, the Interagency Committee on School Construction. The body would be renamed the Interagency Commission and grow in size to include five appointees of the governor, two of the House speaker and two of the Senate president. Lawmakers rushed the legislation through the House and Senate last week, expressing concern that Franchot and Hogan were using the process as a political tool to prioritize air conditioning projects over the priorities of local school officials.

They sent it to Hogan on Thursday so that his deadline for signing or vetoing the bill would pass before the legislature adjourns April 9, assuring lawmakers a chance at a veto override.

That override appeared uncertain from the moment the Senate passed the bill with 29 votes, the minimum needed to reject a veto. Franchot called out two of the senators whose support for the bill was not assured until they joined fellow Democrats in voting for it last week — Sen. Kathleen Klausmeier of Baltimore County and Sen. James Mathias of the lower Eastern Shore.

“While I’m suprised that Sen. Klausmeier cast an adverse vote, I’m hopeful but cautiously optimistic she will represent the best interest of the eighth legislative district, which has directly benefited from this board’s leadership on the air conditioning issue,” Franchot said.

“I doubt Sen. Mathias’ constituents would agree with his vote,” he added.

Kopp rebuked her colleagues for “name-calling” and “targeting” of legislators.

“I think they’re strong and can speak up for their constituents and speak up for themselves,” she said. “The real issue is whether we want to stick with a process that is nonpolitical.”

While she said she supports the current process for school construction, so long as it isn’t used as a political weapon, she said the General Assembly’s proposal “could work out to be a very good thing.”

“I think that this system that we have now could work well, but it hasn’t,” Kopp said. “It has been starting to slip toward a different type, not financial, but political corruption.”

Hogan made light of her comments.

“I appreciate your opinion,” he said. “I feel bad that they made you say things like that. I know that you don’t believe it.”

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