With Legislative Waivers, Maryland’s Paid Vacation and Abortion Access Bills Become Law

Maryland’s General Assembly voted on Saturday to override Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s vetoes on abortion access and paid vacation bills, signing the measures into law.

The House of Delegates convened on Saturday to override vetoes of several bills by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). (Maryland Matters/Bennett Leckrone)

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Maryland’s General Assembly voted on Saturday to override Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s vetoes on abortion access and paid vacation bills, signing the measures into law.

The bills were among 10 measures passed by a Democratic supermajority in the legislature despite the objection of the Republican governor on Saturday.

House Bill 937entitled Abortion Care Access Act, was overturned in the House of Delegates by a vote of 90 to 46 and in the Senate by a vote of 29 to 15.

The bill will expand who can perform abortions in the state to include nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants.

It will also provide $3.5 million in financial support to clinically train health professionals to provide reproductive services. The bill will also make current state abortion care coverage under Medicaid permanent and require private health insurance plans — except those with religious or legal exemptions — to cover abortion care without cost sharing or deductibles.

In a veto letterHogan said the bill “endangers women’s health and lives by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions.”

Senate debate on the bill was limited by an earlier motion for closure.

On the floor of the House, Minority Leader Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll) called the bill “the most sweeping expansion of abortion in the history of Maryland in a state that already has some of the the most liberal abortion laws in the country”.

Of the. Emily Shetty (D-Montgomery), pushed back and said the only examples offered by anti-abortion delegates on the floor were radical arguments themselves.

“It’s not radical to provide health care when people need it,” she said.

Republicans said the bill would allow medical workers in Maryland to offer abortions in extreme circumstances, including allowing a 15-year-old to have an abortion at nine months pregnant. The bill does not expand the circumstances under which a woman can seek an abortion in Maryland, which is a protected right until a fetus is able to live outside the womb; once viability is achieved, abortions can only be performed in the event of fetal abnormality or to protect the woman’s health.

The invoice for paid family leave, Senate Bill 275will provide Marylanders with 12 weeks of partially paid leave each year to care for themselves or an immediate family member after a serious medical condition, and up to 24 weeks of paid leave for new parents who also have serious health problems.

The bill does not specify the contribution rate (or the amount deducted from payroll) and cost sharing between employers and workers, leaving that up to the Department of Labor to decide by the end of this year.

Residents of Maryland could start receiving benefits from January 2025, under the proposal. “What was the main reason to rush this?” Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) asked on Saturday.

Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City), the bill’s sponsor, said both houses have plenty of time to debate the program. “It’s really to support many families in Maryland who have just given birth or served as caregivers,” he said, urging senators to vote to override the veto.

The Senate voted to override Hogan’s veto 30-16. Shortly thereafter, the House of Delegates voted 94 to 44 to enact the bill.

Lawyers applauded the result.

“Two years of the pandemic have reminded us how important it is for workers to be able to balance work and family. Through this paid leave program, workers will be protected against financial and potential job loss in the event of family issues,” Myles Hicks, campaign manager for the Time to Care Coalition, said in a statement after the vote. “It’s good for workers, it’s good for employers and it’s good for Maryland.”

Mike O’Halloran, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said the bill would increase labor costs in the state and stretch small businesses.

“Unfortunately, the Legislature just handed over another small business bill,” O’Halloran said. “…Maryland job creators who have been fortunate enough to weather COVID restrictions, record inflation and ongoing supply chain issues will now face a new payroll tax.”

Other vetoes

Lawmakers also debated and voted on Saturday to override Hogan’s veto on Senate Bill 53the law on the protection of children during interrogation.

Under the bill, police will be required to contact parents or guardians of children and allow them to speak to a lawyer before they are questioned. The policy does not prevent children from being questioned by the police.

House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) said law enforcement and others are concerned the bill will “eventually lead to — that it s whether it’s one case, two cases or 20 cases – that a very serious juvenile offender can get off the consequences of a very serious juvenile crime, a violent crime, because of these provisions.

In explaining her vote to overturn, Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), the bill’s sponsor, called it an “important vote for public safety.”

“On behalf of all those children who have been harmed by coercion and forced confessions, I am happy to join in this override of the veto,” Carter said.

Chambers voted along party lines to override House Bill 1021sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), which would require businesses that sell firearms to have 24-hour burglar alarm systems, along with other security measures, including crash bars, metal doors or physical barriers to prevent vehicles from crashing.

Republican lawmakers argued that the bill would increase costs for small business owners, while lawmakers penalized gun store owners instead of tougher penalties for those who steal guns.

House Judiciary Chairman Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) defended the bill.

“All we’re saying is, if you’re selling guns in the state of Maryland, you would want me to take the necessary steps to make sure your business is safety first,” he said.

Another canceled invoice, House Bill 90, presented by Del. Shaneka T. Henson (D-Anne Arundel), will allow the lawyers of the Office of the Public Defender to conclude collective agreements. The bill also states that public defenders can also only be sanctioned or fired for cause.

In veto the billHogan wrote that the legislation “will shift the focus of clients to whom Assistant Public Defenders are called upon to serve and assist.”

House Republicans echoed that argument on Saturday.

Of the. Jesse T. Pippy (R-Frederick) wrote that the bill would mean “the focus is now going to be on the customer and the public defender.”

Of the. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County), who supported the waiver, said there is an “imbalance” between public defenders and prosecutors, with public defenders underfunded and with workloads and clients higher in comparison.

“We talk a lot about the role and responsibilities of public defenders, but what we don’t talk about is: who takes care of public defenders? Acevero said.

Clippinger, assistant county attorney for Anne Arundel, also supported the ability for public defenders to unionize.

“If they want the right to collectively bargain their working conditions, I have absolutely no problem with that,” Clippinger said.

In another collective bargaining measurethe chambers voted to add sergeants and supervisors within the Maryland Transit Administration Police to the list of employees who can participate in collective bargaining.

Chambers also overruled Hogan’s veto on Senate Bill 1which will allow the Commissioner of Labor and Industry of the Maryland Department of Labor to investigate and issue stop work orders to state contractors and subcontractors who have violated applicable wage laws.

Senator Ed Reilly (R-Anne Arundel) has opposed the bill, saying he hasn’t seen a trial in the past decade when a contractor accused of violating wage law in force resulted in the recovery of the workers.

“It’s a solution looking for a problem – there isn’t one,” he said.

But Senator Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel), the bill’s lead sponsor, said there were 887 wage and living wage violations in effect in fiscal year 2021 and 1,394 violations in 2020. She also referenced a 2019 court case involving a contractor demanding that each of his employees pay him back $200 a week so they could stay on the job.

“Those are the kinds of issues we’re trying to address,” Beidle said. The new law will incentivize contractors to pay the correct prevailing wage and result in fewer violations, she continued.

Lawmakers also signed into law vetoed bills on Saturday that will establish more guidelines before a local health worker can be fired; compel the Maryland Transportation Administration to increase commuter train service and plan connections with neighboring states; and expand state wage requirements publicly funded service contracts for mechanical services.