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MGA: Elected School Board faces obstacles

The Dundalk Eagle on April 22, 2012
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Bill raising fees for hunting fails

by Bill Gates

    Legislation that would convert Baltimore County to an elected school board was in doubt earlier this week after amendments added in the Senate.
    It’s also likely Del. John Olszewski Jr’s school choice bill for Baltimore County will have to wait for at least another year.

The House of Delegates version of the elected school board, HB 481, passed last week by a vote of 124-8 and calls for a Baltimore County school board consisting of nine elected members.
    “We chose to have nine districts to prevent legislators and councilmen from having undue sway on getting individuals elected to the board,” Olszewski said. “The lines drawn for the districts would allow for more diversity on the school board.”
    The Senate Health, Education and Environmental Matters committee disagreed, amending the Senate version (SB 407) to have the Baltimore County school board consist of six elected members and five appointed by the governor and selected on the basis of racial, gender and ethnic diversity.
    The original version of the Senate bill called for a 7-4 split between elected and appointed members.
    Currently, all members of the Baltimore County school board are appointed.
    “The Senate complaint is that the district lines wouldn’t have much diversity,” Olszewski said. 
    The House bill was sponsored by the Baltimore County delegation, while the Senate version was sponsored by Baltimore County senators Bobby Zirkin and J.B. Jennings.
    The chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education and Environmental Matters committee, Baltimore City senator Joan Carter Conway, expressed concerns that an all-elected school board would not reflect the racial diversity of Baltimore County.
    “It’s very clear [Conway] is uncomfortable with the House bill,” said Olszewski, who feels the nine districts created in the House bill would ensure minority representation on the school board.
    Since the bill only would effect Baltimore County, other legislators would usually approve it under “local courtesy.”
    “What can be more local than a jurisdiction’s school board?” Olszewski said. “There’s no question local courtesy should apply, and it’s disheartening it’s not being requested on this issue.”
    The House of Delegates would have to vote to approve the Senate changes for the bill to be sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature.
    If the House does not approve of the Senate changes, the bill would be sent to a conference committee to work out a compromise.
    “We had a delegation meeting this morning,” Olszewski said on Tuesday. “But we did not vote on the school board changes proposed by the Senate because the bill has not passed second reading in the Senate yet — and we can’t be sure we would be voting on the final changes to the bill until that happens.”
    If the House delegation doesn’t support the Senate version, they won’t just pass what the Senate wants, Olszewski said.
    As for Olszewski’s school choice bill, which would allow Baltimore County public school residents to attend middle and high schools outside of their “home” districts, it was approved by the county House delegation but is facing some questions.
    “The legislation probably won’t be passed [this session],” Olszewski said. “There will be a required study on the feasibility of it.”

Hunting license fee increase fails
    A bill that would have nearly doubled the cost of hunting licenses was defeated in the House of Delegates last week by a vote of 69-62.
    Olszewski voted against the bill, as did fellow 6th District delegates Joseph “Sonny” Minnick and Michael S. Weir Jr.
    “This was the first time a bill from the Environmental Matters committee died on the House floor,” said Weir, a member of the committee.
    The bill, HB 1419, would have increased the cost of a hunting license from $24.50 to $40.
    It also would have created a number of other fees related to hunting stamps.
    The additional revenue was meant to go toward the state Wildlife Management and Protection Fund.
    “The increase was too high,” Weir said. “Raising it to $30 might have been okay.”
    The bill would also have increased fees for non-resident hunters from neighboring states.
    “If [supporters of the bill] had done their homework, kept the resident fees lower, it might have had a chance,” Weir said. “But most delegates felt the increase was too much.” 

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