The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee voted to cut money from the University of Maryland this afternoon at the request of Sen. Richard Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican who is angry that the university’s environmental law clinic is pursuing a case against an Eastern Shore farming family.
The issue has rankled rural lawmakers since 2010, when Perdue Farms brought it to the attention of the Eastern Shore delegation. The farmers, Alan and Kristin Hudson, contract with Perdue to raise chickens and are accused of polluting a Bay tributary.
Efforts to punish the University of Maryland have been beaten back in the last two years, with the majority of lawmakers wary of interfering with a lawsuit.
This time Colburn suggested transferring $500,000 from the University of Maryland’s government and community affairs office to University of Baltimore Law School — with the direction that UB use the funds to establish an agricultural law clinic.
Sen. Roger Manno spoke in support of the transfer, but added a note of caution. "I"m beginning to feel as though the clinic is under attack," he said.
Baltimore Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell flat out objected, saying that the public affairs office also oversees community outreach programs that are valuable to her district. “I think we need to look at this a little closer,” Jones-Rodwell said. She added that a $500,000 cut would "nearly decimate" the program.
She suggested a $100,000 cut.
Colburn countered with a $250,000 cut.
A deal was struck. The panel agreed.
The full Senate and House would have to agree before it is final.