ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – The Maryland Senate on Friday voted to override Governor Larry Hogan's veto on a move to fund a first-in-the-national-state board focused on making expensive prescription drugs more affordable.
It was one of more than a dozen veto overrides approved by the Senate during the first week of the General Assembly's term. This included measures to combat crime.
The Senate plans to add additional veto overrides later in the session. The House of Representatives must continue to override the vetoes for the measures to become law.
Maryland's Prescription Drug Affordability Board examines drug costs. It has the power, with the approval of a state legislative committee, to find ways to make expensive drugs more affordable to state and local governments. The board will also propose a plan to lawmakers to make prescription drugs more affordable for all citizens.
The body was created by legislation in 2019. The bill, passed by lawmakers, would allow him to raise up to $ 2 million a year through reviews of drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmaceutical service managers, and insurers. The board of directors has estimated that around 1,400 companies would be assessed as part of the measure.
"The board has already started its work with preliminary funding and is doing an excellent job studying the impact of rising drug costs across the state," said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. "And other states are following our lead in creating similar boards."
The veto override was passed with 30-15 votes. A three-fifths vote out of 29 was required.
The Senate also acted under crime reduction laws. The Republican governor proposed a separate crime-fighting package last year that included stricter penalties for violent crimes, but Democrats who control the General Assembly supported actions they believed had an evidence-based approach to crime-fighting.
The crime-fighting effort has caught the attention of state officials, as Baltimore has committed more than 300 homicides in each of the past six years.
One measure would require the governor to raise at least $ 3 million to the state budget each year to receive a fund to support community and hospital-level violence intervention programs. Another requires regional police plans, while a separate measure directs additional resources to areas with high crime rates.
"What we do know is that the bills that were presented to us today are evidence-based," said Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. "We know that if we have a plan and a coordinated use of resources, it will have a positive effect on reducing violence."
The Republicans voted to uphold Hogan's vetoes. The GOP claims that the Democrats ultimately failed to incorporate enough of the governor's proposals that were originally part of a compromise. The Republicans also criticized funding mandates without offering a way to pay them.
"During the 2020 session, Republicans agreed to compromise on supporting these programs as these programs were tied to bills designed to remove violent offenders from the community," Harford County's Republican Senator Robert Cassilly told one of the Republican caucus. "In the end, the General Assembly took the pork and rejected the provisions aimed at improving basic criminal justice and combating violent crime."
Hogan's proposals last year included stricter penalties for violent criminals, including mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes involving guns.
"The governor believes that the General Assembly should focus on passing crime laws that actually solve the violent crime problem," said Michael Ricci, a Hogan spokesman.
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