xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Howard school board, Merriweather bills among those to cross over

Annapolis statehouse

Bills changing the way Howard County's school board is elected, creating tax credits for properties damaged by flooding and bulking up noise regulations around Merriweather Post Pavilion have all cleared one chamber of the General Assembly with less than three weeks to go before the end of session.

The legislation, along with other local measures, got favorable votes from the House of Delegates by crossover day, the deadline by which proposals must be voted out of one chamber to get the best chance of being considered in the other.

Advertisement

Both the House of Delegates and the Senate stayed late into the night Monday as they worked their way through dozens of votes in order to position bills to pass by April 10, the last day of session.

The school board bill, crafted by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat from Maple Lawn, was endorsed by the Howard delegation and got a near unanimous vote in the House.

Advertisement
Advertisement
After weeks of discussion, Howard County's state delegation has reached an agreement on legislation that proposes to change the way the school board is elected.

Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Columbia Democrat who disagreed with the bill's continuation of at-large elections for school board members — she argued they are too expensive and difficult for average citizens to run — was the sole opposing vote. Del. Bob Flanagan, an Ellicott City Republican who had proposed his own solution for the school board, didn't cast a vote on the measure.

Under the legislation, which changed several times before winning a majority of the delegation's endorsement, voters countywide would still elect all seven Board of Education members but five of the seats would be tied to councilmanic districts and could only be represented by residents of those districts. The other two seats would remain at-large.

The bill could face additional hurdles in the Senate. It has a hearing in the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee on April 5 — less than a week before the session ends — and must receive a favorable report from committee members before making it the Senate floor. Sen. Gail Bates, a west county Republican who opposed the measure in delegation and had instead advocated for forming an independent commission to establish school board districts, sits on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs.

Other bills that successfully made it out of one chamber by the end of crossover day include:

Advertisement

•House Bill 566, which would authorize the county to exempt historic district businesses from the personal property tax.

•House Bill 572, which would allow the county to offer a property tax credit to businesses that have suffered flood damage. The Senate's Budget & Taxation committee has given the measure a favorable report, sending it next to the Senate floor.

•House Bill 677, which would create stricter regulations on noise limits around Merriweather Post Pavilion by tying the limits to distance from the main stage, instead of a satellite. The bill has a Senate hearing March 30.

•House Bill 797, which would raise limits on the amount of beer, wine and liquor that can be served as part of alcohol tastings. The measure had a hearing March 21 but hasn't yet received a committee vote.

•House Bill 1343, which would classify county fire and explosive investigators as law enforcement officers with the authority to carry a gun and make arrests in the course of their duties. The measure has a Senate hearing March 30.

•House Bill 1604, which would exempt some county police, firefighters and first responders from the transfer tax. No Senate hearing has been scheduled yet.

Other measures didn't cross over in time.

Legislation that would have allowed county school boards to fire superintendents before their contract is up hasn't yet made it out of a House committee. Atterbeary, who sponsored the bill with Del. Eric Ebersole, a Democrat who represents Howard and Baltimore counties, said she thinks the legislation is probably dead for the session.

Some lawmakers are backing effort in Annapolis to require that buyers of tickets to Maryland sporting and entertainment can purchase them in a freely transferable form. The proposed legislation has the entertainment giant Ticketmaster on the defensive against would-be competitors such as StubHub.

But Atterbeary said she's heard interest and support for the measure from lawmakers representing other counties and expects the issue will be back next session.

And a bill giving the County Council power of approval over school board budget transfers and more than doubling the amount of time council members have to act on a request for a budget transfer is still in committee, as well.

Just because a bill didn't clear at least one of the chambers Monday doesn't mean it can't pass the General Assembly and become law — though it does face the risk of becoming mired in the rules committee, where bills will now be sent.



Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement