Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed more than a dozen measures Friday, including one aimed at creating greater transparency in emergency procurements — like the one that made headlines when Hogan confidentially purchased 500,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea that later stirred controversy.
The bill would require the governor to provide a legislative panel notice within 72 hours after the execution of the contract or the expenditure of funds when authorizing a certain emergency procurement during a state of emergency.
In his veto letter, Hogan said “extraordinary measures were necessary to keep Marylanders safe from this deadly virus.”
“The arbitrary notification and reporting requirements that this legislation requires does little for transparency yet creates administrative challenges when time is of the essence,” wrote Hogan, a Republican. “It is unreasonable — and frankly, out of touch — for the legislature to expect the Governor or an agency head to check boxes on a form rather than focus on the emergency at hand.”
But Del. Brooke Lierman, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation in the House, said “it's incredibly disappointing and quite frustrating that our governor would be opposed to shining a light on how his administration is spending taxpayer dollars.”
“I think the governor over the last year repeatedly spent taxpayer dollars without providing any transparency or information to the General Assembly or to the public about the terms of spending those dollars,” said Lierman, of Baltimore.
The bill passed 131-1 in the House and 47-0 in the Senate.
Last month, a state audit found that the Hogan administration failed to follow state procurement regulations when it bought 500,000 COVID-19 tests from a South Korean company last year. The first batch of tests that later had to be replaced at an additional $2.5 million cost had not been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Maryland’s purchase had initially been met with great fanfare last spring when states across the country scrambled to secure tests, but state lawmakers started asking questions after time went by about the confidential deal and asked for an audit.
About $12 million was ultimately paid for the LabGenomics tests and for a chartered flight to ship them, but those funds were not supported by formal written contracts or agreements containing any of the critical provisions required by state regulations, the audit said.
Hogan has adamantly defended the purchase of the tests.
Here’s a look at some other bills Hogan vetoed Friday:
The measure would create a statutory definition of “emergency” for the purpose of deciding when to use an emergency procurement and expands reporting requirements.
The bill would require the state Health Department and local health departments to adopt and implement a two-year plan to respond to COVID-19.
The measure would require the state to make investments to maintain the state’s public transit system to start addressing a $2 billion maintenance backlog.
The measure would give Maryland counties and the city of Baltimore more flexibility in setting local income taxes.
The General Assembly is controlled by Democrats, who hold a supermajority in both houses. Lawmakers will have an opportunity to override the vetoes when they are next in session.