The House of Delegates gave final approval Saturday to legislation that will give the Prince George's County executive an unprecedented level of authority over the county's troubled school system.
The bill now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has said he will sign it into law.
As legislators worked to wrap up business by the end of the 90-day session Monday, the House also gave final approval to scores of other bills, including one to protect the rights of pregnant workers, and preliminary approval to many more, including O'Malley's plan to help veterans and their families get jobs.
The shake-up in the Prince George's County school system was sought by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, a Democrat. The legislation will let Baker hire the school system's next chief executive officer, as the superintendent is called. He will choose from a list of names prepared by a search committee named by the governor.
Baker also will select the school board chair, vice chair and one other member. He will have a stronger role in governance of the local school system than any other elected county official in Maryland. The County Council will get a representative on the board as well.
Del. Jolene Ivey, chair of the county's all-Democratic House delegation, said the change will be good for the school system, which has some of the lowest test scores in the state.
"This is an opportunity to select a great superintendent," she said.
Opponents warned that the partial takeover would set a precedent that could be followed by other county governments. The bill was opposed by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and Maryland State Education Association, which represents unionized teachers.
While ostensibly a local bill, dozens of delegates from other counties — both Republicans and Democrats — opposed it. The vote was 81-45.
Its supporters included Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who represents parts of the county. He has praised Baker for stepping up to take responsibility.
Baker has expressed concern about the system's progress. He told lawmakers he wanted to be able to choose the next chief executive, a position that has been vacant since September.
Ivey said concerns about establishing a precedent were overblown. She noted that Baker's original proposal would have given him much broader power over the school system.
Among other bills receiving final approval Saturday was a measure requiring employers to let pregnant women do less strenuous jobs when their usual duties might harm the expectant mom or her baby. The legislation also mandates other accommodations for pregnant workers, who would have to show proof from a health care professional that they need to ease off their regular work.
The House also gave preliminary approval to a bill designed to help veterans and spouses of active-duty military service members find work in Maryland — one of the few items on O'Malley's wish list not to have passed already. Among other things, the legislation would streamline the process for veterans and spouses to obtain licenses in more than 45 professions.
The measure, which cleared the Senate unanimously, is expected to win final passage in the House on Monday.
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