School construction funding lauded by Towson legislators, as session in Annapolis ends early

Chris West, who represents the Towson area in the Maryland Senate, said he was exhausted by the end of session.

Maryland’s legislative session, normally 90 days, is tiring enough under the best of circumstances for lawmakers and others who descend on Annapolis, but West said, the work needed to get relief to Marylanders who have been and will be hurt by the spread of the novel coronavirus, along with the decision to shorten the session by about three weeks, required long nights and weekends.


“I left exhausted, but with a very renewed confidence that the government of Maryland is working in a united fashion in the best interests of its citizens,” West said.

West, a Republican, was not the only lawmaker from the region impressed with the General Assembly’s quick pivot.

“They say each session is different, but this was extraordinary,” said Del. Cathi Forbes, a Democrat.

Lawmakers wanted to “work together to blunt whatever was going to come next,” she said, and “It was amazing to be a part of that.”

The quicker turnaround for the session meant some ideas and bills got left behind, at least until next year. Forbes and West both said they were disappointed that a bill which would require all new state-owned buildings — like schools — to install solar panels on their roofs didn’t make it to the Senate and House floors for votes.

There were two other bills that West was unhappy got left “on the cutting room floor.” One was a measure that would have legalized sports gambling in Maryland, and the other would have phased out coal-fired power plants in the state.

“I had more disappointments than triumphs [this session], to be honest with you,” West said.

Both, however, were glad to see the Built to Learn Act — a bill earmarking some $2.2 billion for new school construction — pass.


“In Baltimore County, it will result in a new Towson High School, a new Dulaney High School and a new Lansdowne High School, those three, which are badly needed,” West said.

Forbes said getting the school funding passed was one of “her main things” this legislative session. Both West and Forbes said they were especially disappointed the solar panel proposal did not pass, because the Built to Learn Act would lead to the construction of new schools across the state, which would have provided plenty of buildings for solar panels.

Forbes said she hopes to bring the solar panel proposal back to Annapolis next year.

“I’m thinking we could have gotten that across if we had more time,” she said.

In a text message, Del. Nino Mangione, a Republican who represents areas north of Towson in District 42B, said he thought ending session was an “excellent” idea because of public health concerns, but declined to comment further.

Del. Michele Guyton, of Phoenix and a District 42B Democrat, said it is hard to look ahead to the next legislative session, and what kind of work might take place next year because of the ongoing crisis.


But a shorter legislative session in 2020 does not mean Guyton is taking a long break before the General Assembly re-convenes, which could occur as soon as May if a special session is held.

“I’m still working. We’re not in Annapolis, but I’m working from home,” she said. “We’re trying to get information to [constituents] as quickly and thoroughly as possible. We really are still working for them now.”