Top Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly said Wednesday they need more communication from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's administration in order to work better together, as lawmakers gathered for the start of the state's annual legislative session.
House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said details about Hogan's initiatives have been mysteries to them until they have heard about them in news reports. They also said the governor has not indicated what he has in mind for ending budget mandates he has criticized.
“It's not like they've shared the ideas of what tax relief is going to be or what these mandate reliefs are, so I have no idea what mandates they're talking about removing,” Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said at an annual summit organized by the Marc Steiner Show and The Daily Record. “Well, until you see the specifics of what mandates they want to remove from the operating budget, it's tough to make a comment on it.”
Miller compared the need for communication with the executive branch to the same needs as having a healthy marriage.
“You have to be able to communicate to make things happen, in your marriage as well as government,” Miller, D-Calvert, said.
Democrats hold sizeable majorities in both houses.
The latest surprise came a day earlier, when Hogan announced details about his plans for $480 million in tax cuts over five years. The governor is aiming the relief at manufacturers who bring jobs to the state, retirees, small businesses and working families. Some Democrats were annoyed about Hogan describing his proposals as something no lawmaker should oppose, even as he left out the fact that some of the proposals have been made by Democrats in the past.
“I maybe didn't say it as articulately as I could, but what I meant to say was that these are ideas that Democrats and Republicans do agree on and should agree on, and these are the people that we all agree need to help, so we shouldn't have major opposition in the legislature,” Hogan said.
During a brief appearance during the Senate's opening session, the Republican said he wants to work with lawmakers in both parties.
“I want you to know that I'm always available to you,” Hogan said. “Just pick up the phone, let us know whatever you want to talk about.”
The first day of the 90-day session is largely a brief and ceremonial one. Miller, 73, and Busch, 69, were easily re-elected to their leadership posts.
Lawmakers have scheduled votes for next week to attempt to override several Hogan vetoes from last year. The vetoes in question are for the following measures:
- A bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana paraphernalia and smoking pot in public.
- A measure to create a $300 threshold before money can be seized in criminal cases.
- A bill designed to ensure that third-party travel websites pay all of the state's sales tax.
- Two bills that would allow a person convicted of a felony to register to vote when the person is released from prison, even if they are still subject to parole or probation.